The soon-to-open gourmet sandwich and pizza shop Vidalia (1964 W. Lawrence Ave., Ravenswood) is the latest offering from a group of partners whose other projects include Haywood Tavern, Dante's Pizzeria, High Dive, and Rocking Horse.
Smoked meats will feature prominently; co-owner Georg Simos describes chef-partner Rodney Staton as “a big fella from the South” and partner Alex Tsolakides as “a big Greek guy." But Simos also throws out the adjectives “light” and “feminine” when describing Vidalia’s food.
“Some of it is heavy, but we don’t want [Vidalia] to be thought of as a masculine, over-the-top heavy, guy place. We’ll have big beefy sandwiches, but also delicate panini and things like beets and farro for sides.”
The counter-service spot won’t open for another few weeks, but Simos is already looking ahead: “We may morph into somewhat of a deli,” he says, noting that in addition to eight full-sized sandwiches, eight panini, four signature pizzas, and four composed salads, they’ll also offer side items—such as giardiniera and marinated mushrooms—that customers can purchase to take home.
Staton will make his own Italian sausages and smoke brisket, Montreal-style, onsite. (For the uninitiated, Montreal-style smoked meat starts with brisket, a fattier cut than the beef that’s smoked in New York delis. The meat is dry-cured and smoked, then wrapped and steamed—a trick he says makes it fall-apart tender.)
As for the pizzas, Staton will employ a refurbished rotating deck oven to turn out 14-inch and 18-inch thin crust pies, in contrast to the gargantuan New York-style version at Dante’s. In addition to pre-set topping combos, customers can build their own with deli ingredients including peppers and artichokes.
Vidalia will open without a liquor license and Simos says his crew is undecided as to whether or not they will pursue one. As with the possible deli situation, the plan is to not overplan. “We’ll see how the neighborhood reacts. We like to start slow and see where things go,” he says.