Spring will bring outdoor ambience
As the weather gets warmer in the weeks ahead and this winter’s snow melts away to a mere memory, the owners of Retro Pizza Cafe are looking forward to business in full bloom.
“We opened in October and are doing well now, but when people can come here and sit outside and enjoy themselves, that’s when things will really take off here,” said co-owner James Argyropoulos as he stood inside his cafe, 13000 S. La Grange Road, in Palos Park’s Mill Creek Shopping Center.
The outdoor eating area that wraps around the place can seat up to 70 patrons, on the top of the seating for 24 inside.
Despite the establishment’s name, there is little “retro” about Retro Pizza Cafe. “If people come in here looking for pictures of classic cars, they won’t find it,” he explained with a smile, gesturing at the eatery’s cool colors, sleek design, mural-size photos of European cities, and hipster music flowing from overhead speakers. “The only thing here that’s retro is this [classic-looking] bottle of Pepsi.”
The inspiration for the name came from abroad.
“We’re Greek. We’re in Greece a lot, go to Europe a lot,” Argyropoulos continued, as he talked about a Retro cafe in his family’s hometown in the old country, a popular gathering place. “We wanted to put something here that was like that, in a way--a little more of a European cafe-style place than what you normally see around here.”
As the name implies, pizza is the star of the show. Outsized slices made with fresh ingredients are what draw customers young and old. Full pizzas are also available via pickup and delivery.
“We use quality ingredients, pretty much from scratch,” Argyropoulos said. “Our pizza is just a little bit different than others. We have a slightly sweeter sauce and our crust is right in the middle—between the really thin crust you’ll find in New York and the thicker crust that Chicago is famous for.”
In addition to its signature item, Retro Pizza Cafe has expanded its offerings to include panini, wraps, soup, salad, gelato, cake, muffins, smoothies and more. Plans are in the works to bake additional dessert items onsite, as well as launch a dinner menu that may include such favorites as baked salmon, baked chicken breast and more.
The cafe also serves Intelligentsia coffee, one of just a few locations in the area that offers the high-end, nationally acclaimed coffee.
Proud as he is of the food and beverages, Argyropoulos boasts about the friendly service at the family-owned and operated eatery.
“Everybody who’s involved here is local, family, you know, this is definitely a mom and pop operation,” he said. “You’ve got me, my two brothers, my best friend, and a brother-in-law.
“I grew up here. I know this area. I went to Stagg High School,” he reminisced. “My best friend went to Sandburg. We used to come here when it was Baskin-Robbins, 20 years ago. I used to walk here every day, to eat at Subway and hang out at Jewel, because that’s what there was to do.”
That family feel and familiarity with the area are what helps set Retro Pizza Café apart from other local eateries. “We really do care about every customer that comes in,” Argyropoulos added. “I think you find that a lot in the mom and pop places. Franchise places can be very cold. I’ve worked for franchises. Not that they teach you to be cold, but they have a system that doesn’t leave you a lot of room for warmth. We’re different. We’re a face-to-face kind of place. We talk to our customers, we listen, we’ve changed things at their request, and we’ve added menu items at their request.”