Pizza to go: Romano's in Des Plaines closing after 60 years
On Monday morning, Romano's Italian Restaurant will ship 150 frozen pizzas to fans around the country craving a last taste from the Des Plaines icon.
The restaurant, which has been open almost 60 years, will have its last day Sunday, June 27, said Chuck Romano, whose parents started the restaurant known for its pizza with very thin crust at 1396 E. Oakton St.
"It's been a very overwhelming week," Romano said Friday. "After all these years we served a lot of people, families, kids, grand kids. Everyone of them has memories and stories. It makes me feel good and makes me feel sad."
Long-distance Romano's craving is a reality, said Sue Wolford of Prospect Heights, who brought a friend into the restaurant Friday for a last pizza.
Her son, Sean, has had her ship pizzas to him in Florida, and once he asked her to stop at Romano's on her way to the airport and pick one up.
Jerry Doczekalski of Niles started driving to Romano's 45 years ago when he first got his driver's license. About nine years later he brought his future wife, Sue, on their third date. On Friday they were both there with their daughters, Cathy and Jennifer, waiting for their sausage pizza.
"Do they have anything else on the menu?" asked Jennifer.
Romano, who is 66, has worked in the restaurant since his teen years, but he does not remember Harrison Ford or Hillary Rodham Clinton, both of whom considered Romano's their hangout when they were high school students in Park Ridge.
Entertainers who appeared at Arlington Park Theater also dropped in, and Burt Reynolds once brought Dinah Shore to the restaurant.
Early menus hang beside the signed photos on the wall, with one listing a large mushroom, cheese and sausage pizza for $3.25 and 30-cent bottles of beer.
Romano would still like to work something out with the bank that foreclosed on the venerable building. if that doesn't work out, he hopes the restaurant can reopen at another location.
The restaurant business itself is now owned by Tom Sitarski, a longtime friend and employee, said Romano. Both of them said they are looking forward to taking a month off.
The way Romano explains it, the whole financial mess was a misunderstanding that started with an IRS lien that should never have been filed.