‘They’re putting us out of business’: Elk Grove pizzeria’s days are numbered amid lease dispute with village

Marie Altobello is the mom behind the mom-and-pop pizzeria that has stood for more than four decades on the south end of Elk Grove Village.

She brought her grandfather’s family recipes for pizza and beef from the old Italian neighborhood at Grand and Ogden in Chicago. And in the 1980s in Elk Grove’s bustling business park, the blue collar shift workers ate it all up at lunchtime.

“We need to get you a car,” she recalls her husband saying.

“I don’t need a car. I need a pizza truck,” she replied.

For years, that Chevrolet S-10 pickup — with built-in oven — was one of three Munchies Pizza vehicles making deliveries around town.

The recession put an end to that in 2008. Then the pandemic hit.

Altobello, 75, has been able to weather it all, but now she faces a lease dispute with village hall and the impending wrecking ball on the building where her restaurant has been since 1983.

“They’re putting us out of business, and it’s our livelihood,” she said.

Altobello’s attorney has a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline to respond to the village’s lease buyout offer of $80,000, plus five months of free rent and waived licensing fees that would put Munchies out of business by Oct. 1.

The village plans to close on its $675,000 purchase of the 25 Turner Ave. building April 30 and tear it down in the fall.

  Elk Grove Village officials plan to close on their purchase of the 25 Turner Ave. building on April 30, then tear it down in the fall. Christopher Placek/

“I love the community. I love Elk Grove. Everything has to change, I get it,” Altobello said. “But I feel so disrespected. I want to go away holding my head up high. I don’t want it to end like this.”

At the heart of the matter is Altobello’s lease, which her attorney Matt Wood says is valid through May 31, 2031.

Village officials say otherwise because she’s signed her rent checks with the memo “month to month.” Altobello just exercised a lease extension option with building owner Sanjay Jethva, but village officials also question its validity.

The village has secured lease buyout agreements with the other two remaining tenants in the 57,713-square-foot commercial building: Turner Liquors, which has a lease until the end of the year, is getting $15,000; and The Mixx Hair Salon, which has nine years left, is getting $250,000.

Wood said he doesn’t have an exact number of how much he thinks his client should be paid, but first wants to have a discussion with village officials about potential relocation assistance. If not, then he wants “a fairer number, commensurate with what they’ve given other businesses.”

He pointed to the village’s redevelopment efforts on the opposite end of town, where most all of the existing retailers on the southeast corner of Higgins and Arlington Heights roads will be allowed to stay open until new buildings are built for them, under a proposed multiphased commercial and residential development.

The Envision Elk Grove master plan made public this month suggests site redevelopment concepts for the northeast corner of Arlington Heights Road and Devon Avenue. Courtesy of Elk Grove Village

“Why are you working with some businesses and trying to strong arm Marie?” Wood said.

Mayor Craig Johnson called the buyout agreement he offered Altobello — worth $105,000, with the free rent and licensing fee credits — “incredibly generous” and “pretty close” to the number she wanted when they first spoke in December. Johnson said the final offer had to take into account the village’s cost to purchase the building and buy out the other two leases.

“We got as high as we really could do — actually probably exceeded what I should have done by almost $20,000 to try to be that nice to her,” Johnson said.

He said the village consulted four real estate law firms to review Munchies’ lease.

“She is supposed to be given a 30 days’ notice. We were more than generous with Marie,” he said.

Whether Altobello accepts the offer or not, Johnson said the village will proceed with plans to prepare the building for demolition this fall due to its poor condition, which includes mold in some areas and an old roof.

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