Chicago Franchise Systems, Inc.
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Chicago Franchise Systems, Inc. franchises operates Italian-based Chicago-style restaurants in Illinois, Georgia, California and Missouri which specialize in Chicago-style cuisine They have operated since 1990, when they took over the popular Nancy's Pizza chain of pizzerias. Nancy's itself was started in 1971 by Nancy and Rocco Palese, a couple who claims to have invented the concept of stuffed pizza. Today, there are 36 Nancy's locations in Chicago metropolitan area, as well as two location in the Atlanta, Georgia area, and one in the Los Angeles, CA area. CFS, Inc. operates Al's Beef, a popular Italian beef restaurant that is extremely well known in downtown Chicago and is regarded as one of the best beef sandwiches in the country. CFS, Inc. just launched Doughocracy Pizza + Brews, a fast casual pizza place that gives customers the "Freedom to Choose" their own toppings on a hand stretched pizza crust that can be paired with local craft beers. There are two Doughocracy restaurants, one in Genevas, Illinois and one in University City, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
Nancy and Rocco Palese had lived most of their adult lives in Turin, Italy before immigrating with their three children to the United States in 1969. After 18 months in Chicago, Nancy and Rocco opened their first pizza parlor, Guy's Pizza, featuring a popular thin crust pizza. In 1971 friends tried to get the Palese's to experiment with pan pizza. Rather than imitate others, Rocco decided to invent his own pizza, modeled after his family’s recipe for "scarciedda," an Easter specialty cake and called his new invention Stuffed Pizza.
In 1974, Rocco and Nancy opened the first Nancy's location in Harwood Heights, Illinois, which could seat only 35 people. Three years later, they opened the first location in Chicago. In 1990, the Palese family sold the name Nancy’s Pizza and all development rights to Dave Howey, the president of Chicago Franchise Systems, Inc., who had been a licensee of the Palese’s since 1977.
Although stuffed pizza (a variant of deep-dish pizza) is the trademark menu item at Nancy's they also offer a large menu of traditional Italian dishes, such as thin crust pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, and various desserts.
In 1938 Al Ferreri and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli, Sr. began developing the original Italian Beef sandwich, served at Al's Beef locations and other Chicago area beef stands.
The original idea for the Italian beef sandwich was formed out of necessity. In the great depression era, meat was scarce. Chris and Al would go to family weddings and in order to make the meat go around, the family sliced it thinly and made sandwiches. The first official Al's Beef stand began as a small, curbside, outdoor, wooden neighborhood food stand with countertop service located on Laflin and Harrison Streets, in Chicago’s “Little Italy” neighborhood. The beef stand gradually grew and moved to its present location at 1079 W. Taylor Street, still in Chicago’s "Little Italy." It was here that they added Chicago hot dogs, fresh, homemade, hand-cut French fries, and Polish sausage to the menu. In 1999, Chicago Franchise Systems bought the rights to Al's #1 Italian Beef Restaurants. The first Al's franchised location opened in 2001 in Tinley Park, Illinois. Al's retail locations are positioned to compete with local independent beef stands as well as larger corporate entities such as Portillo's and Buona Beef.
- 1975 - rating of Nancy’s Pizza by Chicago Magazine as "The Best Pizza in Chicago."
- 1979 - Chicago Magazine chose Nancy’s Pizza as "The Best Stuffed Pizza in Chicago."
- 1982 - ABC-TV's People's Choice Poll chose Nancy’s Pizza as the maker of the "Best Pizza in Chicago."
- 1984 - Chicago Tribune chose Nancy’s Pizza as the "Best Stuffed Pizza in Chicago,"
- 1987 - Chicago Tribune chose Nancy’s Pizza as the maker of "The Best Fettuccine Alfredo in Chicago."
- 1999 - Al's Beef named one of the "Top 10 Sandwiches in America," a "Chicago Food Legend" and "Chicago's #1 Italian Beef Sandwich," an honor bestowed upon it by Chicago Magazine.
- 2000- Appeared on Bobby Flay's Food Nation Show with Bobby stating: "Big Al had the Right Idea"
- 2009- Playboy voted Al's Beef "Top 10 Best Sandwich in America"
- 2009- Nancy's Pizza voted top pizza in Atlanta by "Best of Atlanta"
- 2012- Named Al's Beef one of the "Best Sandwiches in America" for Midwest region on Adam Richman's Top Sandwich in America Show.
- 2012- Nancy's Pizza voted top 10 pizza places in Chicago by Chicago Traveler
- 2013- Al's Beef appeared on Chicago Fire TV Show
- 2014- Virgin Atlantic named Nancy's Pizza "Best Chicago Style Pizza in the Windy City"
- 2014- Al's Beef appeared on Chicago PD TV Show
- 2014- Mike Ditka named official spokesman of Al's Beef and Nancy's Pizza
- 2015- Al's Beef appeared on Shameless TV Show
- 2015- Thrillist.com named Al's Beef one of the "Top 50 places to eat in Chicago before you die."
- 2015- Al's Beef appeared on Andrew Zimmern's show "Bizarre Foods Delicious Destinations."
- 2015- Nancy's Pizza voted "Top 5 Pizza Joints in Chicago" by www.highsnobiety.com