Olive tree finds home inside upcoming Naperville pizza shop
Everything is on purpose inside MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza opening next month in Naperville -- including the live olive tree delivered to the restaurant Friday morning.
The 14-foot-tall tree, with its sage green leaves, will be a centerpiece of the pizza place when MidiCi opens July 13 as the final restaurant to make its home in the downtown's new Water Street District.
"It symbolizes Mother Nature. It brings the outdoors in," local owner Valerie Insignares said about the non-fruiting olive tree, which will be surrounded by a circular table and bench seating. "People can be sitting around the tree while they're eating."
The indoor tree is part of a cultivated interior design to help the newest location of the MidiCi chain meld fast-casual service with fine-dining taste and create an experience like dining in Naples, Italy, Insignares said.
"We're trying to make it nicer than expected," she said.
The 4,500-square-foot eatery has a heart -- actually a slightly heart-shaped bar and cooking counter -- and seating for 168 people, including 49 on a patio near the DuPage River.
It has two 6,000-pound pizza ovens from Italy that can cook pies at 850 to 950 degrees, in 60 to 90 seconds. Custom chandeliers simulate constellations in the Italian night sky, grow-lights will help the olive tree stay healthy when the restaurant closes each night, and gallery lighting over the tables puts the spotlight on people, as if they were paintings.
"We believe people are the work of art," Insignares said.
A stencil message planned for the women's bathroom will instill a like-minded idea: "You are the best thing to happen to anyone."
Out of diners' view, the new MidiCi has a special dough cooler, chilled to about 55 degrees and 65 to 75 percent humidity to allow a double-fermentation process to take place. A mixer imported from Italy will join together the ingredients of each 55-pound batch of dough, made in-house twice a day in regular and gluten-free varieties.
And at MidiCi, a margherita pizza will cost $8.95.
Insignares, a restaurant industry veteran who has worked for KFC, Burger King and the Darden company, plans to open four other locations of MidiCi in Lombard, Schaumburg, Skokie and Orland Park. As she prepares for the first opening in Naperville, she's hiring roughly 55 people.
The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce was pleased to welcome the new eatery -- and its indoor olive tree from a grower in Florida -- on Friday, about 19 months after the Water Street District began to open its hotel, banquet center, restaurants and shops.
"We're excited about the new businesses that are coming into Naperville, especially the restaurants," said Colin Dalough, the chamber's director of government affairs and business development. "There are a lot of opportunities to dine in Naperville and have fantastic experiences."