UPTOWN — From an industrial kitchen in Logan Square, Robert Maleski launched his dream business during the pandemic and found early success.
Now, Milly’s Pizza In The Pan is opening a sit-down and takeout restaurant in Uptown. Milly’s will open Feb. 15 at 1005 W. Argyle St., Maleski said.
Maleski opened Milly’s after being laid off from his server job during the early days of the pandemic. He used the opportunity to achieve a long-held goal of starting a pizza business.
Milly’s take on pan pizza — inspired by iconic Chicago pizza maker Burt Katz — was a hit from nearly the start. As a one-man operation, Maleski sold out almost nightly in the early days, he said. The business made the Chicago Tribune’s 25 best pizzas list in 2020, just months after opening.
With the business on solid footing, it was the right time to make the jump to a storefront, Maleski said.
“Originally, it was my idea to open a brick-and-mortar, and we found a place in Evanston,” Maleski said. “We just didn’t have the funds. … It made sense to try it now.”
In Uptown, Milly’s will continue to offer delivery and takeout, but it will also have a dining room for about 20 people, Maleski said.
Moving to a storefront location helps Maleski achieve his dream of having a neighborhood pizza place. It also helps customers get the pizza in its ideal setting.
“I want people to get their pizza fresh,” Maleski said.
Milly’s is named after Maleski’s grandmother, Emily — she went by Milly — who inspired him to get into cooking. But Katz, the late founder of Burt’s Place in suburban Morton Grove and original owner of Pequod’s Pizza in Lincoln Park, is the inspiration behind the product.
After a visit to Burt’s a few years ago, Maleski was an instant fan of Katz’s iconic brand of pan pizza. That led to him spending months trying to create his own version, working on recipes during and after shifts as a server at Seasons 52 restaurant in Schaumburg.
Maleski was furloughed from that job in March 2020. After settling on a recipe for his pizza, he launched Milly’s a few months later.
In moving to Uptown, Milly’s will be one of a few spots in the Asia on Argyle district that is not a Southeastern Asian business.
Maleski said that originally gave him pause. But after checking with the local chamber, Maleski was reassured the spot could work and provide neighbors extra food options, he said.
Don Pablo’s Kitchen, which specializes in empanadas, is opening next door to Milly’s, giving Maleski further reassurance about the location, he said.
“They felt the community was in need of another food option,” he said.
With the Uptown restaurant, Maleski hopes to take Milly’s to the next level and achieve a longstanding dream.
“I’m shocked at the success, to be honest,” he said. “It’s a dream.”
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