After robust opening, Wasco pizzeria has to shift gears
It's been an interesting first few weeks for Joe Pavone of South Elgin since taking over management of the Pizza Cucina in Wasco and putting his name on it.
He had an excellent response from customers during his opening weekend, and enjoyed solid reviews from those who have tried his pizza and other menu items.
But with coronavirus guidelines calling for restaurants and bars to be closed for dining, but open for delivery and takeout, Pavone has focused on having that part of his business humming for what could be a busy time.
Still, like any other restaurant at the moment, Joseph's Pizza Cucina will have to deal with consumer uncertainty and caution unfolding regarding the spread of the coronavirus.
"Our dining room will be closed, but we will be delivering pizza and doing carryouts," Pavone said. "We are always doing our part, too, in sanitizing the restaurant."
If they weren't already, it is likely all of our local restaurants will be extremely diligent in the cleaning category, even when the signal comes to reopen.
But let's not overlook the more pleasant topic -- the pizza at this new site. First, you have to realize how long this 35-year-old fellow has actually been making pizzas.
"He's been making pizzas since he was this tall," said Maira Remigio, holding her hand at about her waist. Remigio is the order taker and customer greeter at Joseph's Pizza Cucina.
Remigio should know about Pavone's estimated height when he first started mixing sauce and rolling dough. She's been working for the family since 1996 at its location in Glendale Heights.
Pavone says he was hanging around his father's pizzeria at about age 8, but "probably didn't start making pizza until about age 12 or so."
His family has more than 30 years of experience in making pizza, so there was a good chance Pavone would spark some interest in his pizzeria in Wasco.
"To start with, from the day we opened our doors, people have been very receptive to us and the response was overwhelming the first day," Pavone said. "It was a huge turnout, and we really appreciated everyone who came out and enjoyed our pizza."
Pavone learned the trade through family bloodlines, meaning he knows exactly what brings on a positive reaction for a pizza.
"Our traditional thin crust or double-dough is popular, but what really makes it is the sauce," he said. "It is homemade, my father's recipe, and it has been in the family this whole time.
"My father grew up in the pizza business and opened his first pizza place in 1989," he added.
When asked if he has ever felt an urge to maybe change the recipe to add his own touch, Pavone's eyes opened wide as if it were a question bordering on blasphemy.
"No, you don't change that," he said.
Anyone who dined at this pizza parlor along Route 64 before Pavone put his "under new management flags" out front, and maybe left unsure about trying it again, might want to give it another go under Pavone's ownership.
I tried the pizza to gauge the sauce against what my grandmother used to cook up in her Chicago home on the city's Southwest Side. There is no doubt Pavone makes a tasty sauce and a really good pizza.
Some of the early feedback on social media channels since Pavone took over indicates he's got something good going here. And don't forget, this place offers a full menu of sandwiches and sides.
And if it has to be carryout or delivery for a period of time, it all should still taste quite good.
Library's moving sale:
The "moving sale" sign is up for the St. Charles Public Library.
Even though the library at 1 S. Sixth Ave. is closed during its renovation project, and all of its collection is moving to the Haines Middle School building, area residents have a chance to buy things the library will no longer need.
Due to the mandate by Gov. Pritzker that social gatherings over 50 people be canceled, the library will be holding the Moving Sale by appointment only. Watch for a signup link to come.
The library will have furniture, electronics, artwork, collectibles, storage units, shelving and many other items. Did I mention a 2004 GMC library van is also for sale?
Money raised helps the Friends of St. Charles Public Library. Information is available by visiting the library website.
As with any local event or meeting during this period of time in which we are trying to slow the spread of an illness, be sure to check to make sure the event is still scheduled. As of earlier this week, it appeared on the library website that the sale was still going to take place.
Went to final games:
I have spent a good portion of my life in a sports-driven world -- playing games, attending games, reporting on them, or watching on TV.
So, it is quite different to have virtually every sports event canceled because of coronavirus.
I attended local girls basketball games just after Title IX gave equal play to girls' sports in the late 1970s and to other prep events with very small crowds, so I also know what it is like to attend an event with very few people.
But after some further thought, most leagues determined that games with no fans weren't really protecting the players.
It seems as if I sneaked across the finish line just before so many of the leagues and games were suspended or canceled. I went to three high school basketball games and a Chicago Wolves hockey game in less than two weeks.
That has to suffice for now, as it's way more important for everyone to stay safe and focused on limiting the spread of the virus.
Another source of help:
Former St. Charles police officer Jim Kintz sent a note to thank me for writing the piece a couple of weeks ago about where single moms can get help for various needs.
He knows a lot about that aspect of our communities, having worked for years to help victims of domestic violence.
But he mentioned I forgot a resource that has worked well since its inception a few years ago -- the 2-1-1 help line.
"Calling 2-1-1 will give them a listing of agencies that can assist with their needs," Kintz said.
Those prom dresses:
Joanne Spitz of the Batavia CHIP IN organization informs me that the prom dress giveaway scheduled for Saturday, March 21, at the Batavia Public Library has been postponed.
She's hoping it can take place Saturday, April 11, but she also realizes that a lot can change regarding the coronavirus pandemic and what the schools may actually decide to do regarding prom season.
Either way, the organization collected more than 400 dresses and a lot of accessories for students unable to obtain these items for the big high school event.
Now, it's just a matter of whether those dances eventually become another victim of this medical emergency.
As for the column:
By its very nature and title, of course, this "Talk of the Town" column is going to appear only once a week for a while. In short, with most events canceling and restaurants being closed except for delivery and pickup, it puts a dent in the topics we talk about in this column.
Depending on other content flow or needs, it will appear in this spot on either Fridays or Sundays.
I am hoping my different approach to some topics during this time will interest and entertain you and maybe keep your spirits up.
Here's to hoping we can all stay healthy as we work our way through this crisis.