Nicki Cardilli and Justin Fitzgerald have been cooped up for too long.
After years in the making, the couple is finally ready to open their restaurant at 401 East Ohio St. on the North Side.
The Coop Chicken & Waffles, the brick-and-mortar version of their popular food truck, debuts on Friday for takeout. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Customers can pick up fresh tender wings and bone-in birds (without hormones, antibiotics or steroids) accompanied by the homemade Belgian pastries. Family meal packs, including a bucket of chicken and two sides, and kid-friendly options are available, too.
Eventually, the 720-square-foot corner space — a former Rita’s Italian Ice — will open for dine-in service. Cardilli and Fitzgerald are working to create a patio area as well.
The eatery was supposed to open in early 2020, but COVID-19 changed those plans and stalled the food truck’s season, which was set to begin on March 17, two days after the shutdown. It didn’t hit the road until the first week of June.
With their St. Patrick’s Day celebration canceled, the owners felt unlucky at first, but Fitzgerald says the downtime allowed them to refocus.
Plans for the interior of the restaurant were modified to meet current CDC safety guidelines. For instance, there is now a large glass frame around the service counter. The mobile vehicle — which typically visits festivals and office parks to dish out lunches — also changed course. The truck is now used to cater private events such as weddings and visits local neighborhoods around dinnertime.
The pair also found a way to create jobs, giving financial security to 10 people during uncertain times. That, Fitzgerald says, is more important than anything.