In the Know: Aurelio’s Pizza to see major changes in Naples market

TIM ATEN
The longtime Aurelio's Pizza location on the corner of U.S. 41 and Fifth Avenue North will close today and reopen Friday as Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub.

Photo by TIM ATEN // Buy this photo

The longtime Aurelio's Pizza location on the corner of U.S. 41 and Fifth Avenue North will close today and reopen Friday as Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub.

After 15 years in down­town Naples, the popular Aurelio’s Pizza location will be renamed this week and the Chicago-based chain is planning to open another local franchise this fall.

Photo with no caption
Everything relating to Aurelio’s Pizza will be replaced this week with flat screen TVs and a lot of new Chicago memorabilia to make way for Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub in downtown Naples.

Photo by TIM ATEN // Buy this photo

Everything relating to Aurelio’s Pizza will be replaced this week with flat screen TVs and a lot of new Chicago memorabilia to make way for Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub in downtown Naples.

Aurelio’s longtime rela­tionship with local fran­chisee John Stewart ends at the close of business today. That’s also when Stewart plans to tempo­rarily close his family-run restaurant at 590 Ninth St. N. in Naples and reopen it Friday as Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub.

When the local fran­chise’s contract was up for renewal this month, Stew­art chose not to renew it because of what he called “significant changes” to his original agreement. He said it is in his fam­ily’s best interest to go its own way.

“We, the Stewart fam­ily, chose not to renew our Aurelio’s franchise agreement and go on our own for several reasons, the primary one being the direction that Aurelio’s corporate has been taking over the past three years,” Stewart said.

“When we first opened in Naples in 1997 and for many years thereafter, we were grant­ed a great deal of auton­omy in the development of our ‘Chicago’ restau­rant theme as well as our menu. That has changed, whereby we have become expected to fall in line as a cookie-cutter clone of corporate’s ever-changing thinking.”

For instance, Stewart said he was permitted to purchase fresh pork products for sausage from Jimmy P’s Butcher Shop in Naples until a few months ago. Aurelio’s no longer al­lows it, Stewart said.

“We now must buy a frozen product from a subsidiary company owned by Aurelio’s that is shipped down to Florida,” he said. “We prefer to buy local, fresh and the best.”

Aurelio’s, which began in the Chicago area in 1959, has more than 40 in­dividually owned and op­erated franchise locations in six states. The company sees benefits from fran­chisees doing things the Chicago way.

“Part of being a top chain is delivering the Au­relio’s product and expe­rience, every single time, in every single location. Ultimately, when each franchisee complies with obligations, it’s better for our customers, better for the other franchisees and better for our business,” said Kirk Mauriello, di­rector of franchising for Aurelio’s Pizza.

In a news release, the spokesman said the company regrets the longtime local franchise did not want to comply with the terms of the renewal contract obligations as set forth by the chain.

“We are disappointed to see this relationship end. However, Aurelio’s is on a growth mission. We are a beloved half century-old brand and chain wide we are taking our company to the next level,” Mauriello said. “Our growth focus means improving productivity and efficiency. We develop systems for franchisees to bolster operations and we rely on their abidance to ensure brand consistency.”

As part of its corporate contract termination, the Naples location will no longer have legal rights to operate as an Aurelio’s Pizza or sell Aurelio’s products.

“This means after June 18, the current Naples location will no longer have access to the proprietary Aurelio’s brand pizza cheese, sauce, sausage, dough and other ingredients which are shipped direct from Chicago from the Aurelio’s Pizza commissary,” Mauriello said. “Also, the location is to cease using any Aurelio’s Pizza packaging, trademarked and branded menus, signage, website and social media.”

Although his new independent local restaurant will not be affiliated with any chain, Stewart said some ingredients for Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub still will have a Chicago connection.

“While we are forbidden to utilize any Aurelio’s branded products or recipes, we will be able to serve similar items obtained from both local and national food purveyors along with our own homemade family recipes,” Stewart said. “In addition to Jimmy P’s, we will be using various Fontanini meat and condiment products out of Chicago.”

Longtime patrons can expect to see brats, Polish sausage, capicola, fat spaghetti, as well as some new specialty pizzas, on the pizzeria’s fun, new menu, based on famous Chicago names and landmarks, Stewart said.

“In addition to the new menu items already mentioned, we will be offering beach bread, pepperoni bosco sticks, antipasto small plate, Chicago-style garbage salad, taco salad, Caprese salad and orange raspberry walnut salad,” he said. “As for pizza, in addition to the usual array of traditional toppings, we offer broccoli, eggplant, capicola, shrimp, artichoke and corn — it really is good.”

Not planning to leave what it calls a strong market, Aurelio’s corporate is scouting new locations, seeking new franchise operators and planning to open a new Aurelio’s Pizza location in Naples in the fall. The pizza chain reports that the location in Naples has been a top performing store year after year because of its many transplanted Chicagoans, especially during season.

“The Aurelio’s brand has a lot of passionate pizza fans in Naples and we don’t want to disappoint them,” said Mauriello, noting that Aurelio’s regional location in Gulf Coast Town Center remains open under another franchisee.

Aside from new signage, the exterior of the longtime Aurelio’s in Naples will remain the same. Inside, anything and everything relating to Aurelio’s will be removed and replaced with flat screen TVs and a lot of new Chicago memorabilia, Stewart said.

When Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub opens later this week, the Stewarts want to build on their local reputation.

“Although our roots are in Chicago, we have grown into a favorite local restaurant, and we want to continue that tradition,” Stewart said. “We are looking forward to seeing loyal familiar customers’ faces as well as new happy patrons and thank them for years of loyalty.”

Starting Friday, Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub will be open in the former Aurelio’s location for dine in and carry out 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. The new phone number is 239-403-0037.

___

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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.

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Comments » 78

np writes:

Best of Luck and we will continue to eat there!

itmattershere writes:

Out of the 4 times I have been there, only had 1 good pizza. Good luck.

suntan writes:

Worst Pizza on par with Pizza Hut.

staghorn writes:

$41.00 for a pizza is just too much money.

KatoMan writes:

Whoa! you complainers must have got yourselves a ‘bad pack of smokes’ . . . Aurelio’s has the best pizza in town . . . the friendliest staff . . . and the place gives ya a great ‘home time feeling’ . . .and now with the Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub having brats . . . sign me up for my own private table.

. . .and with the attitude I sensed in this article from Aurelio’s corporate bullies . . . the Stewart’s made the right decision . . . I see a great future for the Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub!

JunkYardDog_1 (Inactive) writes:

Chicago style pizza is awful.

RayPray writes:

in response to KatoMan:

Whoa! you complainers must have got yourselves a ‘bad pack of smokes’ . . . Aurelio’s has the best pizza in town . . . the friendliest staff . . . and the place gives ya a great ‘home time feeling’ . . .and now with the Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub having brats . . . sign me up for my own private table.

. . .and with the attitude I sensed in this article from Aurelio’s corporate bullies . . . the Stewart’s made the right decision . . . I see a great future for the Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub!

Everyone told me this was the best pizza.

But it was quite awful.

Really had to screw up pizza, but they succeeded....

Max_Headroom writes:

in response to onion:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

But that's NOT a bad thing.

manforpeace writes:

Know this... VERY HIGH prices.
Tim, just wondering, did they pay you or anyone at NDN to write this story? It so seems that way. Do they advertise in your paper?

Max_Headroom writes:

in response to JunkYardDog_1:

Chicago style pizza is awful.

When was the last time you ate THERE?

Now be honest, I'd wager that you had never ate there.

Max_Headroom writes:

in response to manforpeace:

Know this... VERY HIGH prices.
Tim, just wondering, did they pay you or anyone at NDN to write this story? It so seems that way. Do they advertise in your paper?

Now that they DON'T have to go by what the franchise ORDERED them to charge, the prices will go down.

Max_Headroom writes:

Now, to 'itmattershere', 'suntan','mission_accomplished' and others here, there is MORE to Chicago style cookiong than pizza!

NaplesNative7 writes:

He is probably changing the name because of all of the BAD REVIEWS on the internet. What they need to change is their attitude, their staff and their recipes. They are rude and their food is AWFUL. Changing the name will only fool people for so long!

NaplesNative7 writes:

Try Cosmo's Next door...

There is a reason that Cosmos is always packed and Aurelio's is dead. Cosmos has great food and gracious staff. Aurelio's is just the opposite....Rude and bad food!

Niki_6 writes:

in response to suntan:

Worst Pizza on par with Pizza Hut.

Yup!

Worst pizza in Naples. Bad sauce, too doughy and lack of FRESH toppings. Sick.

Bbmaxim writes:

There's only one real deal in Naples Florida, and That's Augustina's Bistro A TASTE OF CHICAGO! Their Chicago food is spot on! And their pizza blows Auriellos out of the water!!!No wonder their trying to change their ways, they see how well Augustina's is doing!!

lemonjello writes:

Pizza ia a personal choice. I NEVER had a bad pizza at Aurelio’s. Forecast...Sweet Home Chicago Pub & Grub will be gone by this time next year. I would hope they would make it, but this town has too many of these kinda places already. Bad decision.

wentfishn writes:

Best pizza is Napoli on the Bay near the city dock! Just like the pizza I grew up with in Bklyn.

upagain writes:

in response to Bbmaxim:

There's only one real deal in Naples Florida, and That's Augustina's Bistro A TASTE OF CHICAGO! Their Chicago food is spot on! And their pizza blows Auriellos out of the water!!!No wonder their trying to change their ways, they see how well Augustina's is doing!!

Yeah, I am sure Auriellos hates that hour wait they get all the time.

babbas writes:

MMMM...gluten overload! Do you want breadsticks to go with your flour pie, too? YES, and give me a side of pasta!

Hey Doc? Why do I keep getting stomach aches and do you have anything to treat my arthritis? Also, what does the word inflammatory mean?

We are one giant ball of ignorance in the U.S. !

lemonjello writes:

in response to Bbmaxim:

There's only one real deal in Naples Florida, and That's Augustina's Bistro A TASTE OF CHICAGO! Their Chicago food is spot on! And their pizza blows Auriellos out of the water!!!No wonder their trying to change their ways, they see how well Augustina's is doing!!

Glad they are doing well. Drove past them a week ago and the lot was not full at Lunchtime.

Bbmaxim writes:

Ball of ignorance? Not everyone has gluten allergies smart guy!!!!!!!! I enjoy a great pie!!!!

manforpeace writes:

in response to onion:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

AM_Johnny writes:

in response to manforpeace:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

babbas writes:

in response to Bbmaxim:

Ball of ignorance? Not everyone has gluten allergies smart guy!!!!!!!! I enjoy a great pie!!!!

Who said anything about gluten allergies? LOL! Smart guy!

Max_Headroom writes:

in response to babbas:

MMMM...gluten overload! Do you want breadsticks to go with your flour pie, too? YES, and give me a side of pasta!

Hey Doc? Why do I keep getting stomach aches and do you have anything to treat my arthritis? Also, what does the word inflammatory mean?

We are one giant ball of ignorance in the U.S. !

Can't handle gluten? I'd bet you're lactose intolerant also, @&#%!

babbas writes:

in response to Max_Headroom:

Can't handle gluten? I'd bet you're lactose intolerant also, @&#%!

LOL! Not allergic to gluten. Not lactose intolerant either, chump. Ignorance is bliss and you know what happens when you ASSUME (well, you probably don't)

Baaaah Baaaah! Go back to your flock, little sheep! BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

cs84 writes:

I agree with the service not being that great and it was expensive for pizza, but it was one of my favs in town.

manforpeace writes:

in response to AM_Johnny:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

OK funny guy, anyone in their right mind would agree those pictures are SICK. You have a very strange front group. Do you dress up like them also? LOL!

wolfgang1 writes:

I agree that deciding who has the best pizza is indeed a very personal choice. For those of us who are traditional neapolitan ( as in Italy) thin crust lovers, we would allow ourselves to get whacked before we ever set foot in an Aurelios again. Those pies are so heavy and doughy that you could use them as "cement shoes".

FMJohnny writes:

How many Chicago joints do we need in 1 town? Good riddance to overpriced, crappy food and horrible service. Not much is going to change if the same owners are running this dump. They need to stop bringing up Jimmy P's because they are giving a good place a bad name being associated with them.

redsnooktarp writes:

Best pizza in Naples "Capricios" at the Target shopping center Airport and Pine Ridge. Best Italian food for the past sixteen years!

tomcharlie40 writes:

in response to manforpeace:

Know this... VERY HIGH prices.
Tim, just wondering, did they pay you or anyone at NDN to write this story? It so seems that way. Do they advertise in your paper?

Really...you named yourself man for peace, but you are the most negative person around. You complain about everything and you also think the NDN is out to get you...haha...I'm not a huge NDN fan, but give me a break. You don't care about Naples or our local economy. All you do is rant and rave about anything that is positive. You won't be happy until NDN writes an article saying that the town of Naples is collapsing and we will all have to move somewhere else. Geez... Get over yourself and get on some meds!

micirisi writes:

Since we are talking pizza, you can get two large pan pizzas with five toppings each for $21 at Pizza Hut and they are pretty darn good, consistent too. Last time I went to a local family restaurant (not Aurelio's) I paid ~$41 for a single large thick crust pie with three toppings which wasn't as tasty as a ¼ expensive Hut pie. I like to support the local family run restaurants though it seems they tend to be inconsistent in quality and overpriced.

Beachtowel writes:

Aurellios easily has the best pizza in Naples. I feel sorry for those of you who actually think pizza hut, pappa johns, dominoes, etc is actually pizza.

speakthetruth97 writes:

Attention John Stewart: Fortunatley for us a new franchise Aurelio's opened near us at the Gulf Coast town Center 3 years ago. We used to have to drive down to Naples from Estero for your pizza. I will say that the product is as good if not better at GCTC, but the service is 10 times better than your store. We had consistantly BAD service at your store, waited on by teens mostly who didnt have a clue and hardly ever saw anyone who even looked like management walking around checking on customers the way they do at GCTC. Good Luck

joeblow writes:

Everybody talked it up a great deal...got a pizza from them it was under cooked and was very "doughey". It's far from the "best pizza" in Naples.

16ouncetallboy writes:

in response to NaplesNative7:

Try Cosmo's Next door...

There is a reason that Cosmos is always packed and Aurelio's is dead. Cosmos has great food and gracious staff. Aurelio's is just the opposite....Rude and bad food!

I agree...

16ouncetallboy writes:

Luigis has great pizza..

manforpeace writes:

in response to tomcharlie40:

Really...you named yourself man for peace, but you are the most negative person around. You complain about everything and you also think the NDN is out to get you...haha...I'm not a huge NDN fan, but give me a break. You don't care about Naples or our local economy. All you do is rant and rave about anything that is positive. You won't be happy until NDN writes an article saying that the town of Naples is collapsing and we will all have to move somewhere else. Geez... Get over yourself and get on some meds!

Thank you for following my posts. It means a lot to me that people spend time reading them. I really get a charge when people re post them. Its like making my point twice. Thanks again.

16ouncetallboy writes:

in response to Beachtowel:

Aurellios easily has the best pizza in Naples. I feel sorry for those of you who actually think pizza hut, pappa johns, dominoes, etc is actually pizza.

It's not even close to being the best pizza in town. Not even the best pizza on the street.

JunkYardDog_1 (Inactive) writes:

in response to Max_Headroom:

When was the last time you ate THERE?

Now be honest, I'd wager that you had never ate there.

Did you just respond to my comment without comprehending it, Max?

I'll try again, now read carefully. "Chicago style pizza is awful."

I never said I ate there, did I? I don't like any Chicago style food, all of it is awful. Just because you're from Illinois and like it, that doesn't mean everyone else does. Authentic New York style is the only pizza I consider on the rare occasion that I eat pizza. Got it?

tomcharlie40 writes:

in response to manforpeace:

Thank you for following my posts. It means a lot to me that people spend time reading them. I really get a charge when people re post them. Its like making my point twice. Thanks again.

I would hardly say I'm "following" your posts. I just read the articles I'm interested in and most of the time your very entertaining posts wind up being there. They do make me laugh even though they are annoying at the same time. I laugh because all of your posts are the same thing the only thing that is differnt is the topic and writer. Stop complaining and thinking that this newspaper is up to something and enjoy your life...just think happy thoughts! And if you really don't like anything in Naples and don't want to support it then move. duh! lol

Max_Headroom writes:

in response to JunkYardDog_1:

Did you just respond to my comment without comprehending it, Max?

I'll try again, now read carefully. "Chicago style pizza is awful."

I never said I ate there, did I? I don't like any Chicago style food, all of it is awful. Just because you're from Illinois and like it, that doesn't mean everyone else does. Authentic New York style is the only pizza I consider on the rare occasion that I eat pizza. Got it?

So, by your own admission, you Never ate there.

Then why are you commenting?

blueblueblue writes:

Aurelios is waaaay too salty.
Cosmos is the best.

blueblueblue writes:

in response to Max_Headroom:

So, by your own admission, you Never ate there.

Then why are you commenting?

JYD has some of the best comments on the blogs. Max Headbutt thinks he rules the paper.
ANYONE can comment, YOU should take a looooonnnnng break!
Why do YOU care where people eat anyway?

justme writes:

Another victim of Corporate USA.

PeopleSpeak writes:

"the Au­relio’s product and expe­rience"

Aurelio's suburban northeast Illinois pizza is lousy!! Good riddance to the franchise, perhaps the new theme won't be as bad!

Now, if we could get decent Chicago pizza like Rosati's or Giordano's, we'd be in business.

JunkYardDog_1 (Inactive) writes:

in response to Max_Headroom:

So, by your own admission, you Never ate there.

Then why are you commenting?

Because I feel like! I stated my position on Chicago style pizza, you have a problem with that?

stonnerjohnnyII writes:

Can't they just close forever?

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