WICKER PARK — An Italian sandwich shop with bread baked in-house is opening on the border of Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village.
Firenze, 2121 W. Division St., offers sandwiches made with schiacciata, a popular flatbread found in Florence, Italy, for which the restaurant is named. Options range from turkey pecorino to truffle prosciutto and roasted veggie.
The company is expanding from its first location in the West Loop’s French Market. Firenze is run by Kevin Hunsberger and Alan Wallis.
Hunsberger joined the company last year after Wallis’ son-in-law, who co-founded the shop in 2018 after a trip to Italy, moved to a silent partner position.
The duo started eyeing an expansion and began looking for a central location to bake their bread.
“We needed a location to bake bread. At French Market, we’ve got a couple hundred square feet to work with. [But] we had a great following and presence. And a brand that we thought could have legs,” Wallis said.
After an extensive search, Wallis and Hunsberger found the Wicker Park location, which will open next week, although it may start serving customers informally before then. The restaurant’s bread is all baked at the storefront.
Hunsberger, who oversees culinary development for the company, said it’s really the schiacciata bread that sets Firenze’s sandwiches apart from competitors.
“I’ve never seen it in this country. I’ve seen a thin foccaccia, but it is truly foccaccia, it’s not what we do,” he said. “We don’t want to be a Panera. We don’t want to be a Così. We want to be Firenze.”
Firenze’s menu is relatively small, with only seven sandwiches available for now, as well as two salads — but Hunsberger said that’s on purpose.
“We’re not going to be that brand that’s going to have 25 sandwiches and a bunch of other stuff. It’s a piece that I think is important to us. We are going make sure everything reaches a threshold of quality that we expect,” Hunsberger said.
Wallis and Hunsberger hope the Wicker Park location is the first in a wider expansion. They’re in talks to open at several food halls later this year, and they hope to have as many as 10 locations by 2024.
For their second location, the partners said they plan to become an active part of the larger Wicker Park and West Town neighborhoods. During their first month, Firenze plans to donate $1 from each sandwich to a Ukrainian relief organization.
“This is going to be our first opportunity to really be in a great, great community and really be a good part of that. We don’t want to just be that chain restaurant that takes advantage of the community. … We want to be a part of the community,” Hunsberger said.
Firenze Wicker Park will be open 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
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