I have so much admiration for people who start a restaurant with just a concept in mind and build a business from the ground up. It’s a really tough, competitive segment – the best statistics available recently show 60% of new restaurants fail within the first three years. Any start-up is tough, I know, because I’ve been involved in dozens.
I have ten times the admiration for people who start a restaurant as an independent operation in a segment that is rapidly growing and has some tough competitors already in place.
Undaunted by that notion, the brothers Kwok created “Olive Theory Pizzeria” in the Chicago western suburb of Downers Grove. They had done their research, dined at a number of the established concept outlets and contemplated and investigated acquiring one of the franchise operations instead of going it alone.
In the end, they believed the restrictions of the franchisors would inhibit the Kwoks creating their vision of the restaurant – one where they could offer the highest quality ingredients, as well as menu items that wouldn’t be permitted under any of the franchise operating guidelines.
All that is fortunate for Chicago area diners in search of high quality “made on demand” wood fired pizza.
They call it “Olive Theory” as a reference to a tale from Greek mythology, wherein the olive tree, a most bountiful gift, was created in a contest to please the King. It’s the Kwok’s goal to offer bounty to the community, while maintaining an operation based on sustainability.
It’s quick and easy to order – grab a menu card (pictured below) at the counter and describe the pie you want or order one of the house specials. For a (low) flat price, you can have as many toppings as you like atop a cracker thin crust, cooked to order in minutes. One thing that differentiates Olive Theory from similar operations is the restaurants commitment to “fresh- prepared in store,” and the highest quality ingredients they can source locally. Outlets of chain operations aren’t allowed the flexibility to chase either of those ideals.
The dough for the crust is made in-house daily, allowed to rest and raise as proper dough requires. The classic tomato sauce is made from what many chefs consider the finest tomatoes in the world, San Marzanos from a particular region of Italy. If you’re in the mood for something other than red sauce, you have six other choices to contemplate. There are five cheeses available, a host of meat and vegetable toppings, as well as “finishing touches” like garlic or truffle oil.
Looking for something a little different, try Olive Theory’s version of a calzone, the “Pie-Sandwich,” your choice of pizza ingredients in a folded over version of their dough, and baked til golden brown. Salads and a daily soup are also on the menu.
The Kwok brothers had invited our party of four in for a tasting, and we had a diverse selection at the table, including the house special pies of “Buddha’s Karma,” “Titan’s Unleashed,” and “Goldbergs Big Five;” each of these pies have a special combination of ingredients that are nearly musical in the way they come together. Truly. I’m a fan of Italian sausage and pepperoni in nearly any form, but Olive Theory’s are spectacular to me.
In addition to being a great place to grab a quick lunch or dinner, dining there or taking it home, it occurred to me that it’s a wonderful destination for families – the pricing is such that it provides a wonderful family outing at a really great value, and the kids will love the “build your own” concept, knowing they aren’t going to have to eat around whatever ingredients dad usually insists on.
Families concerned about the quality of what they eat and where it comes from can also take comfort in the offerings. I feel the ambience/atmosphere is also conducive to families and groups, with large tables, good lighting, and soft background music.
Olive Theory has a selection of beer, soft drinks, and iced tea to go with your meal, as well as some really great dessert offerings, including fresh baked cookies, hot from the oven.
I asked when and where location # 2 will show up, and they just smiled. They did say “no” to locating it my garage, even tho I thought that would be an outstanding site. You need to go to Olive Theory!
They are located in Downers Grove in a small strip mall on the north side of Butterfield Road, at 1400A, just east of I-355, and are open from 11AM -10PM every day. If you’re nearby and want to pick up, you can even order online. Phone is 630-519-5152. Catering services available. Click on menus to enlarge!
Olive Theory Pizzeria Review