Once the go-to place for fuel and candy in downtown Naperville, 19 N. Washington St. is now the place for Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza.
Owners of the new Fiamme Pizzeria believe they have transformed a local eyesore into a small piece of Italy at the site of a long-vacant Union 76 service station.
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"It would have been so much easier to tear it down and start from scratch but we wanted to restore and recycle the building," operations manager Rebekah Lydon said. "Even though it was an eyesore for so long, we know Napervillians have a connection to the building. People have already been in telling stories about how their now grown children used to go to the gas station to buy candy bars."
But Lydon really hopes they'll now remember the location for its southern Italian style pizza and pasta. So far, after its first week, she said the feedback and community support have been great.
A couple of soft openings for family and friends over previous weekends allowed staff to work out the kinks before the doors opened Monday.
"When you're cooking pizza in 800- to 1,000-degree ovens, a mistake as small as two seconds can be disaster," Lydon said. "But this staff has these ovens down to a science and now it's a pleasure to watch them in our open-kitchen environment."
She couldn't name the best pizza on the menu, saying they're all great, but Lydon said the "do-it-yourself bruschetta" already has been a hit.
"Everyone loves to make their own creations these days," she said. "And this way the bread is still crisp when you put your tomato on instead of being soggy from all of the juice. No one likes soggy bruschetta."
Mayor George Pradel accidentally stumbled into a soft-opening last weekend when he was delivering the final permits.
"They insisted I stay and have some pizza but they didn't have to twist my arm that hard," Pradel said. "I love what they've done to the look of the corner and the pizza is going to be a hit."