A pizzeria wonderland

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I’m sure many of you recall the movie “The French Connection.” Well, I’m about to discuss “The Roseland Connection!” The “French Connection” was all about a bad habit. But the “Roseland Connection” involves a good habit: Roseland pizza!

In the ’60s, there were plenty of smaller pizza places scattered throughout the area. Whenever Facebook conversations have centered on the neighborhood over the years, local pizzerias would always pop up. They were a popular weekend treat, a lively place to hang out or a good bet for a first job. These were the neighborhood spots, but what if you were shopping on “The Ave”?

The two hot spots for on Michigan Aveneue were Giovanni’s on 111th Street and Nino’s on 111th Place. Giovanni’s was owned by John Sigonfredo, who became a Martello family friend and resource. John ended up providing jobs for my sister Jean and her husband, Bob, my sister Tootsie and my brother Bill. They all became great friends with a longtime Pullmanite and fellow Giovanni’s employee, Roy Oyervides. It was a very pleasant surprise when I bought my house in Pullman and ran into Roy, who remembered me as Jean’s kid brother.

I have always been partial to Giovanni’s Pizza because while Jean and Bob worked weekends, I watched my sister’s kids. Every Friday night that they worked, we’d get treated to pizza. As any Roselandite can tell you, it was always great to wake up to a breakfast of leftover cold pizza while the kids watched cartoons.

Nino’s was where I took my girlfriend on dates when we both attended Fenger Junior College (Olive Harvey College’s predecessor). I’d been back from Vietnam and been out of the Army for about a year when we started dating. I enjoyed the pizza at Nino’s even more because my girlfriend would have one glass of beer and two pieces of pizza and leave the rest of the pitcher of beer and pizza for me!

If you weren’t on The Ave, the one place that earned a consensus among the young people was Ken & Dick’s on 114th and Front Street. They had some really great pizza and, if you were good, the well-liked owners, John and George Traverso, were good to under 21ers (or so I’ve heard.)! It was a friendly place for everyone and was the forerunner of the much beloved Traverso’s.

Recently, one of my fellow Pullmanites, Dan Pels, invited me to a pizza gathering at his house. The bait was that he had the Ken & Dick’s pizza recipe and was making it for the party. Of course, I attended! The pizza was spot-on delicious and the crust was just as crunchy and tasty as I remember Ken & Dick’s was. The reason Dan had the recipe was that his father had worked for Ken & Dick’s for many years and had opened a couple of restaurants outside of Roseland using the recipe.

George and John Traverso upheld their end of the Roseland pizzamaking tradition by opening Traverso’s Tinley Park.  For many years, Roselandites found a new place where they could run into former neighbors and friends. Traverso’s finally changed hands this past year, when John decided to retire from the business and Harlem Avenue Traverso’s became a Barraco’s restaurant.

Barraco’s has made the effort to update, but not change, the traditional charm that always Traverso’s held. It is still a welcoming place for Roselandites and Pullmanites. The Veneti nel Mondo even had a meet-up for their buffet offering, which runs from 11 a.m to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The 39 members that attended the afternoon event loved it. They enjoyed the food and the opportunity to get together in the daytime without having to worry about night driving.

Another Roselandite gathering place for pizza has become Giuseppe’s Pizza in Schererville. I discovered their Neapolitan pizza when I returned from visiting my son, Navy Commander James, in Italy. It turns out that the owners are a Roseland family . Now, Frank Rossi the accordionist that many Roselandites follow is filling the place up a couple nights a month. It’s another great place to have that Roseland-style pizza and see Roselandites you haven’t seen in years. Plus, you get to enjoy Frank Rossi while eating some great Italian food.

Nino’s is another place from Roseland that still offers our favorite pizza along with other menu delights. They too have maintained that traditional dining room we all grew up with in Roseland. They’re now located on 111th just west of Cicero, and for me, on the way to my family place: Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

Their pizza is just as tasty as ever, but since COVID they’ve scaled back their hours. At this time, their hours are Thursday thru Sunday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. (708-423-9100)

It remains to be seen what effect a brand new Paisano’s Pizza location directly across the street from Nino’s will have. I have been to other Paisano’s locations and found their thin crust pizza’s to be similar to what we had in Roseland.

Paisano’s under construction

I leave the judging of pizza to all the former Roselandites. It is my hope that when the readers of this column do come across a thin-crust pizza that reminds them of Giovanni’s or Nino’s or Ken & Dick’s, they will share that information with the rest of us. We need places to run into former Roselandites before we run out of former Roseland and Pullman residents to run into!

Pullman Events

Pullman National Historical Park is as new as a national park can get and it’s a shame if you haven’t made time to visit. The displays are always current and the Ranger staff does an excellent job of preparing events and projects to spread awareness of the Pullman Company’s effect on Chicago, the union movement and the Pullman Porters.

Pullman has so much to offer that, recently, one of my St. Willibrord classmates and her sisters came to Pullman for a tour of the National Historical Park. The sisters of the Young family joined me to celebrate Eleanor’s birthday. They were Eleanor Breden, Romeoville; Therese Young, Blue Island; Gina Byrnes, Blue Island; and Jeanne Foley, Chicago. They enjoyed their tour and plan to return to the neighborhood and enjoy the beautiful greenery that blankets Pullman for a good part of the year. When they do return, I plan on giving them a personal tour of the neighborhood. Who knows? Their tour might even be led by George Pullman himself.

Then there is the Town of Pullman itself, which wasn’t made a part of the city of Chicago until 1899 and all of the properties were sold off by the company by 1907. Pullman is a preservation community, which means that, for the most part, it appears just as it did in the 1890s. The goal of preservation is to preserve and return the town to its original appearance as much as possible, including updates to the outside of the properties.

This attention to detail is what makes Pullman a valuable asset as a living museum. It’s original architecture and tree-lined streets provide a feeling of nostalgia that is hard to come by. The addition of The Pullman Coffee Club and the Pullman House Project are enticing reasons to come by. Visiting Pullman does not have to be a “hit-and-run” situation. You and your friends and family can relax and enjoy yourselves with talk about the Pullman and Roseland we all remember from the days of our youth.


I’m often asked if Spaghetti-Os is done, fini, gone or what? Hope never dies! Through the efforts of Bonny Sandona and her good friend Frank Rossi working together, Spaghetti-Os hosted a get together that might turn into a monthly event taking place in the afternoon on the first Sunday of each month.

Tuscan Gardens, located in Glenwood (where the former Busy Bee Landscaping was located), hosts Frank Rossi and Friends entertainment from 2 to 5 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. This event is open to the public, with pizza and salad provided for a fixed price. Anything else will be additional. There is a large parking lot. Best of all, the afternoon event will avoid night driving.

It would be appreciated if you do plan to attend that you contact Bonny or myself with a heads-up. Bonny always appreciates a headcount. Be sure to tell any former Spaghetti-Os about this opportunity. It has been years since COVID came along and Lorenzetti’s closed. We’ve all gotten older and it is a great opportunity to get reacquainted and find out what’s been happening for the past few years.

My Book

“Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman and Kensington Neighborhoods” is available from me at $20 + $5 s&h. Contact me at petalsfromroseland@gmail.com or 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; res: 773-701-6756. My book is also available at D & D Foods, 1023 S. Halsted, Chicago Heights, at Bookie’s New and Used Books, 10324 S. Western Ave, Chicago and at Miles Books, 2819 Jewett Ave., Highland, Indiana.




About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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One comment

  1. Or Ken & Dick’s. They will share that information with the rest of us.

    Geppetto’s in Salem, Oregon.

    I was taught to make Ken & Dick’s pizza by Bobby, Ken and Dick’s younger brother.

    Though I no longer own Geppetto’s they will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this August.

    Tom Barsotti

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