Chicago Crain's: Nancy's Pizza opening flagship in West Loop

Nancy's Pizza, the Harwood Heights-born, self-proclaimed inventor of stuffed pizza, is plotting a revival.

The deep-dish pizza chain, founded in 1974 and sold to Chicago Franchise Systems in 1990, has signed a lease in the West Loop and plans to open a new full-service flagship restaurant this fall.

The 4,000-square-foot space, across the street from the forthcoming McDonald's headquarters at 1000 W. Washington, is expected to seat about 100 and serve the original Nancy's stuffed pizzas, along with a pared-back slate of appetizers, salads and pasta dishes modernized for the brand's informal relaunch, said Dave Howey, president of Chicago Franchise Systems. It will have a full bar, as well as dedicated space for takeout and delivery orders, which are expected to make up more than half of revenue.

His family-owned company is plotting an overhaul of the space formerly occupied by a Flat Top Grill that tentatively will have a throwback motif, with exposed-brick walls, button-tufted booths and other elements that take inspiration from the original Nancy's restaurants of the 1970s and 1980s. "We're really trying to leverage our product and our history," said David Howey, Dave's son and the company's director of brand development. "We're not going for a clean, sterile look."

Nancy's Pizza, the Harwood Heights-born, self-proclaimed inventor of stuffed pizza, is plotting a revival.

The deep-dish pizza chain, founded in 1974 and sold to Chicago Franchise Systems in 1990, has signed a lease in the West Loop and plans to open a new full-service flagship restaurant this fall.

The 4,000-square-foot space, across the street from the forthcoming McDonald's headquarters at 1000 W. Washington, is expected to seat about 100 and serve the original Nancy's stuffed pizzas, along with a pared-back slate of appetizers, salads and pasta dishes modernized for the brand's informal relaunch, said Dave Howey, president of Chicago Franchise Systems. It will have a full bar, as well as dedicated space for takeout and delivery orders, which are expected to make up more than half of revenue.

His family-owned company is plotting an overhaul of the space formerly occupied by a Flat Top Grill that tentatively will have a throwback motif, with exposed-brick walls, button-tufted booths and other elements that take inspiration from the original Nancy's restaurants of the 1970s and 1980s. "We're really trying to leverage our product and our history," said David Howey, Dave's son and the company's director of brand development. "We're not going for a clean, sterile look."

While the nameplate has survived over the years and now has about 30 restaurants, most of which serve primarily as takeout and delivery vehicles, the Howeys are investing in the brand anew, hoping to build its presence in Chicago and beyond. The new Fulton Market District restaurant will be the first company-owned location and is expected to serve as the flagship and testing and training grounds for the chain's expansion.

It is the third deep-dish chain to move into the on-fire West Loop neighborhood, following Giordano's, which has a long-standing spot at 815 W. Van Buren, and Lou Malnati's, which opened an outpost at 1235 W. Randolph St. in 2014, in Ina Pinckney's former restaurant.

Under separate franchisees, Nancy's recently has opened two new stores in southern Illinois and two in the Atlanta metro. Seven more restaurants are under construction in each of those markets and in North Carolina, where another franchisee has signed on for 10 restaurants, Dave Howey said.

Chicago Franchise Systems also owns the 10-store Al's Beef franchise, as well as a Neapolitan-style pizza concept called Doughocracy, which has restaurants in Geneva and St. Louis. For its West Loop Nancy's spot, Chicago Franchise Systems was represented by Daniel Knorps with Net3 Real Estate Services.

Daniel Knorps