There are pizza lovers and there is JR Escobar, who was so disappointed with the closing of his favorite restaurant that he bought the company.
“I had a meeting with the owner the next day,” said Escobar, operating partner of Pizzeria DeVille in the heart of downtown Libertyville.
Not only does Escobar lease the space at 404 N. Milwaukee Ave., but he negotiated with former owner John Durning to use the name and recipes for old-fashioned, wood-fired, brick-oven and other pizzas. other offers.
DeVille Pizzeria in downtown Libertyville is reopening under new ownership.
From his home in Grayslake, just minutes away, Escobar often frequented restaurants in downtown Libertyville and Pizzeria DeVille became one of his favorites.
“I was a customer here. I’m a pizza connoisseur,” Escobar said Tuesday as he prepared for final inspections for a planned reopening within two weeks. “Honestly, I thought it was some of the best pizza in Lake County .”
JR Escobar reopens Pizzeria DeVille in downtown Libertyville.
Pizzeria DeVille’s style, character and food attracted a passionate following and generated much angst when the doors closed last September after nine years.
But Durning reappeared on Jan. 1 to deliver an optimistic message to customers and introduce Escobar as the new owner.
“I couldn’t be more excited about this,” Durning said in a Facebook post. “For the new year, Pizzeria DeVille 2.0 returns. »
Escobar is a Grayslake resident with decades of experience operating restaurants, starting as a teenage dishwasher in a chicken coop in Round Lake Heights. He managed a Dunkin’ in Round Lake after high school before moving to the Pizza Hut in town.
He stayed with the company for 23 years, rising through the management ranks to oversee 11 Pizza Hut locations in Lake and McHenry counties. He left in 2019 to help open new Zupas cafes in northern Illinois.
Like many others in the industry, Escobar was laid off during the coronavirus pandemic. He resurfaced in 2021 at Crumbl Cookies, helping to open seven locations in the Milwaukee area before recently leaving to pursue “my lifelong dream of owning my own restaurant.”
He has been restoring the place since December.
“It’s a staple of downtown Libertyville,” he said. “I saw opportunities with that.”
Much of the preparation involved cosmetic work like painting and repairing tiles. The first floor bar has also been refreshed and the ground floor bar is ready to reopen. As Durning said in his post, Escobar was cleaning up some of the “neglect” he left behind and “finishing this gem.”
“Our goal is to open as soon as possible,” said Escobar, who as managing partner plans to be on site full time. “We first wanted to ensure that the facilities were up to standard. »
Soda lines were added (as opposed to canned drinks), as well as soft drinks, ice cream and some desserts. The plan is to see how things go.
“Our goal is to offer the best that people at Pizzeria DeVille are accustomed to, and then adapt as we get to know our customer base,” Escobar said.
As before, there are a number of starters, such as meatballs al forno, salads and sandwiches. Red, white and special pizzas remain on the menu.
“The sauce (made from fresh imported tomatoes) is what does the trick,” says Escobar. Roasted vegetables and homemade Italian sausage are among the toppings. Pizza dough is fermented for 72 hours using an old baker’s trick that produces better taste and texture, he added.
The dough cooks quickly and is soft on the inside but crispy on the outside.
“You feel the taste of the wood-fired oven, which makes a big difference,” Escobar said. “We do things the hard way. But it tastes the best.