GENEVA – For 40 years, Orlando's Pizza, 821 E. State St., was the go-to eatery on Geneva's east side, a little place with big taste, according to customers.
A sign at the now-shuttered pizza parlor at East State Street and Eastside Drive states, "Thank you for 40 years."
No one was at the restaurant or answered the phone. Bill Johnson, who owned the business for 25 years, did not answer his cellphone and his voicemail was full.
"If ever a pizza parlor can be considered an institution, Orlando's qualifies," said Mayor Kevin Burns in a text. "It was a destination for dates, post- and pre-dance dinners and family gatherings. A slice – pun intended – of Geneva's history that will be missed."
Joseph Valente, who owns the property and an adjacent parcel at 823 E. State St., said he could not say for sure why Johnson closed the restaurant.
"Who knows?" Valente said. "I guess he got tired of making pizza.
But Valente said he is working on a possible deal with developers interested in buying the Orlando's property and the adjacent parcel, together less than an acre.
Valente said because the parcels are small, the area would be suitable for a Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks or a take-out restaurant.
Geneva Economic Development Director Ellen Divita said she knew of three strong retailers who looked at the site in the last year but did not come to terms.
"So we just keep marketing as part of the TIF (tax increment finance) district. It's still just talk at this point," Divita said.
A tax increment finance district is a redevelopment tool that defers taxes in increments for public improvements to properties that are so blighted, they are too expensive to improve with private funds alone.
The 1,927-square-foot restaurant was built in 1965, according to property records. The other parcel used to be a gas station, Don's Gas for Less.
The East State Street TIF, established in 2000, covers 24 acres and includes more than 60,000 square feet of new commercial construction. These include Aldi Supermarket, Munchie P's, Dairy Queen, Fox Valley Animal Hospital, CVS Pharmacy, and Riganato Old World Grille, according to the city's website, www.geneva.il.us.
The gas station's tanks and contaminated soil were removed using nearly $479,000 in TIF funds and $50,000 in private investment, documents show, to make the property more attractive to development.
While the property owner and developers may look at that corner's potential, Geneva's Eastside Fire Station – kitty-corner from Orlando's – is now without the convenience of the walking-distance restaurant.
"It's a bummer," said Lt. Todd Loomis. "It's definitely not good any time a business closes in town. This was very convenient. Definitely, we are going to miss it. The pizza was absolutely delicious. It tasted homemade."