To say John Durning is gregarious is an understatement.
Belting out his favorite Italian song over and over, he drives his staff crazy. He's passionate -- passionate about pizza.
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So passionate, he left his banking job of 12 years to follow his dream -- opening a pizza joint called Pizzeria DeVille.
"I said I wouldn't do it unless I found the perfect place," Durning said. That place was an old dry cleaning shop at 404 N. Milwaukee Ave., in the heart of downtown Libertyville.
With demolition and construction help from neighborhood buddies with nicknames like Plutamo, Jersey, Newtamo and Uncle Dougie, he's making that dream come true.
"It's great to have friends involved in a place that you've sort of put together in your head and they believe in you," the 49-year-old Durning said.
As the ninth of 10 kids, he remembers making lunches for his older brothers.
"Food has always been my passion, It's what I love to do," said Durning, who now lives in Libertyville.
He fondly remembers growing up in New York and visiting his neighborhood pizzeria after sporting events.
"Pizza has always been my thing, ever since I was a little kid watching the guys at Vinny's Pizza flipping pies," Durning said. "That was the backdrop of my childhood."
That is what he hopes Pizzeria Deville will become in Libertyville.
"I hope we are ensconced in the community like Vinny's was to me," he said. "I always thought it was kind of a cool job because if you did a great job, the customers were always super happy and happy to see ya. It just seemed like a great way to make a living."
Cooking his pizza in a wood-fired oven, Durning is following the old-world Neapolitan style. But he considers his eatery "an American pizzeria."
"We are going to offer sandwiches, salads, antipasto, as well as baked pasta and meatballs," he said.
Durning thinks he's found a niche in restaurant-heavy downtown Libertyville.
"There's lots of pizza out there, but there's nothing like this right in the Libertyville area," he said.
Durning credits his background in banking and real estate in helping him to start his restaurant, which opened this week.
"It's a huge step. I understand the commitment you have to make to a new business and to a new restaurant," he said. "It's making it work with a great and supportive family is what's important to me."
Durning confessed to being very emotional these days.
"I work basically from 6 a.m. to 10 at night," he said. "I'm not tired, I couldn't be more satisfied. I feel so fulfilled right now."