Linda’s Pizza a Joliet success story
December 10, 2011 9:14PM
Mark and Lori Berman own Linda's Pizza, shown Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011, at 723 Taylor St. in Joliet. Their son Jonathan (right) manages both locations. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 12, 2012 8:10AM
Sometimes it seems a fancy new restaurant will no sooner open than word trickles in that the place has closed.
That’s why I was intrigued when I heard Linda’s Pizza in Joliet was celebrating its 30th anniversary in Joliet this year. Owner Mark Berman must have a secret for business longevity, I figured. So I drove to the restaurant’s 2004 E. Washington St. location in Ingalls Park to uncover the pizza mystery.
Berman said his secret ingredient is simplicity. He owns two nondescript locations nestled in neighborhoods. Neither location has a dine-in option; it’s pick-up or delivery only. The menu includes pizza and beef sandwiches. The 723 Taylor St. location has beef and chicken rolls, too, which will soon be added to the Washington Street menu.
“If you want great pizza, come to us,” Berman said. “If you want hot wings, you’re going to have to go somewhere else. We want to take care of our pizza people.”
The city supports its neighborhood businesses, he added.
“Joliet is very loyal to local business as long as you take care of them and treat them right. A lot of chains have come and gone and we’re still here.”
Berman was only 20 when he and friend Scott Zan bought Linda’s Pizza in Lockport from the Cirrincione family in 1980. Berman quickly moved Linda’s to Taylor Street in Joliet in 1981; Zan kept the Lockport location. Cirrincione family members stayed on to help Berman, who had never made a pizza in his life.
Through the years, Berman received advice from his dad, Bill, an accountant, and management help from his brother, Steve, who now owns Lindino’s Pizza in Lockport.
Berman’s son, Jonathan, manages both Linda’s Pizza locations now. Berman, who loved being self-employed through the years so he could attend his kids’ school events, is semi-retired and works as a security guard.
But he still drops in to lend a hand at the restaurants.
Linda’s doesn’t use a conveyer-belt cooker. Each pie is turned and watched closely as it cooks to a customer’s specifications. It’s like cooking steaks, Berman said. Some customers want their cheese lightly done, others want a brown crust.
“You have to watch them and spin them and pop the (dough) bubbles,” he explained.
Berman had just one more mystery to explain to me during our interview: Who is Linda? He said a lot of people think the business was named after his wife, but her name is Lori. The real Linda was the Cirrincione family’s youngest daughter.
Berman could have changed the name of the business, but he didn’t. He kept it simple.