Tablehopping: Menu goes beyond pizza at Village Inn eateries
Co-owner Randy Miles of Village Inn Pizzeria in Skokie and Glenview pulls off a slice of what's made his place a success for the past 20 years. | Photo by Lee Litas ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 2, 2011 11:10AM
Village Inn Pizzeria
3538 Milwaukee Ave., Glenview. Parking lot, handicapped accessible. (847) 827-8900 or 8050 Lincoln Ave., Skokie (847) 675-3737. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 5- 9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Mondays. www.Villageinnpizzeria.com.
"We're not just pizza," stresses Randy Miles co-owner of Village Inn Pizzeria restaurants in Skokie and Glenview. But it is precisely VIP's cheesy pies that have made it a success for the past 20 years.
While celebrating their 20th anniversary last October, Miles and business partner Diana Rumsley, both of Skokie, were discussing expansion. When they found a spot in Glenview with an original 1950s rotating pizza oven they knew they found their place.
The workhorse oven was identical to the one that came with the Skokie location when Miles bought it in 1990. "I bought a place that I grew up in," said Miles. That place was his neighborhood pizza joint which from 1954-1985 was called Alberti's Pizzaria. Unfortunately the famous taste Miles had remembered disappeared after the business changed hands five times. "It was just awful and not the pizza I grew up with."
So on a lark, Miles offered to buy the place. "I jokingly made a low-ball offer and (the former owner) accepted and that was the beginning of my restaurant career in Skokie," laughed Miles.
The challenge quickly became to recreate the original pizza recipe. Luckily, Alberti's original waitress was still there. "Pat came with the place," said Miles of the sassy original fixture who, much like the pizza oven, was a key component to making the delicious pies.
"She was a little bitty thing with the beehive hairdo and the mole over here and the knitting needle in her hair over there, and talking like a truck driver. She was just very stereotypical," said Miles.
Pat knew the original recipe but was unclear on the proportions of ingredients. It took six weeks of trial and error in order to get the recipe from Pat's head into a successfully-finished product.
"For six weeks we made pizza, and we made pizza, and we tried different things," said Miles of the various renditions they achieved. They were desperate to get as close to the original recipe as possible, so when they struck it they knew "this is it!"
Their signature pizza is a thin crust pie-cut that is a mix between New York and Chicago-styles. Prices range from $6 for a personal 9-inch to $15 for a large 16-inch. VIP also offers pan and stuffed pies ($15.50-$18.50) and a choice of more than 20 different toppings. And their gluten-free version lacks nothing in the crispy crust department, a feat that is sometimes difficult to achieve when rice replaces dough ($12/9").
True to Miles' word, VIP's offerings are not the usual fare for a pizza joint. Appetizers range from Pasta 'Fra Diavolo' made with his mother's secret sauce and topped with strips of tender grilled chicken breast ($7.95/$14.95 dinner) to 'unputdownable' zesty Cajun Grilled Asparagus served with cucumber dill sauce ($7.50).
Less unusual but always super-filling as an appetizer choice before pizza is the "Half Slab of 5 Star Ribs" which are charbroiled 'till tender and served with a tangy-sweet bbq sauce ($10.50) or the Fried Calamari which Miles says he puts up against the calamari of the fanciest of restaurants ($8.95).
Or try his Mamma's Meat Loaf made from a blend of beef and pork, served with mashed potatoes, homemade gravy and choice of peas or corn ($8.50 half/10.50 full order).
For a lighter dish, try the Chicken Breast Salad served simply with grilled chicken strips atop mixed garden greens and choice of dressing (8.50).
So despite the main draw, Miles shows that dinner at VIP does not have to consist just of 'za.
"I just believe in using the best quality ingredients, the same ones we've been using for 20 years," said Miles.
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