Chicago Franchise Systems, Inc.

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Chicago Franchise Systems, Inc. operates Italian-based Chicago-style restaurants in Illinois area 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 locations in the Atlanta, Georgia area. CFS, Inc. also 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. [1]

Nancy's Pizza[edit]


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, when friends tried to get the Palese's to experiment with pan pizza. Rather than imitate others, Rocco decided to introduce his own pizza, modeled after his family’s recipe for "scarciedda," an Easter specialty cake.[2]

In 1975, the pair 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. The first carry-out and delivery only location, Nancy's Express, opened in 1991.


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 calzones, pasta, and mostacolli. Chicago Franchise Systems also operates the very popular Al's Beef in Chicago.

Nancy's major competition comes from Giordano's and Lou Malnati's pizzerias for deep dish/stuffed pizza, and from Rosati's Pizza and Home Run Inn for Chicago-style thin crust pie.

Al's Beef[edit]

From its humble beginning back in 1938, brother Al Ferreri and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli, Sr. began developing what is known today as Al's Beef.

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, Buona Beef and Scooby's Red Hots.

On season 1 of Man vs. Food, Adam Richman visited Al's Beef in Chicago and learned the official "Italian stance" for eating such a juicy sandwich.


  • 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 - as 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.


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