TWIN LAKES – All was not lost when Twin Lakes’ Driftwood restaurant was demolished in December. The restaurant’s award-winning pizza and nearly 50 years of experience behind it lives on.
Mark Wenzel can now be found throwing dough behind the counter at Due Laghi Pizzeria, 405 N. Lake Ave., in the Trader Brothers Mini Mall.
“I make all my sauces and batter fresh from scratch every day,” Wenzel said while cranking out the cakes on a recent Wednesday night. “We grind our own cheese, cut our own pepperoni and all our veggies are freshly cut.”
Wenzel’s loyal fan base extends beyond Twin Lakes and its seasonal audience. Many who worked at the Great Lakes Naval Base will recognize his signature 16-spice sauce and the famous BLT and Firebox (Italian Beef) specialty pies served at Roman Coin Pizza.
Wenzel, who started making pizza at the age of 13 at the first two Little Caesar’s locations in the US, went on to own a chain of 13 Roman Coin locations in northern Illinois.
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He also continues to attract former customers from south of the Illinois border who have developed a craving for his pizza and freshly baked submarine sandwiches at restaurants he serves in Antioch, Illinois (JC’s and Kokomo’s) and in Lake Villa , Illinois (The Railhouse) owned).
“The cheesy breadsticks have their own following,” said Sue Harms, who works on the front end, adding that any topping can be added.
With the closure of Driftwood, Wenzel found himself without a location while Mike Pusateri looked for a dining option at his mini mall.
“I aimed it at her mostly,” Pusateri said of his offer for potential partners. “I’ve always wanted to have groceries here to encourage foot traffic for the other vendors in the mini mall that still has space to rent.”
Other tenants include craft gifts from Black Walnut Ridge, shoes from Keno Kicks, Little Mountain Art and BK Glass Bro, and Pusateri’s buy, sell and trade store.
Wenzel and Pusateri renovated the front of the building, which has its own entrance as well as an inside entrance to the mini shopping center. Due Laghi (Italian for two lakes) has a self-service counter and indoor seating for 20 people.
Guests in the dining room can catch a glimpse of Wenzel making dough high in the air in the kitchen.
Busy from the start
A not-so-soft opening on December 18 — the day Driftwood was demolished — got them into business.
“It was like, bam, everyone saw us open and walked in,” said Pusateri, whose wife Bobbie is also a co-owner of the business.
The onslaught continued. Since Friday and Saturday night traffic has resulted in hours of wait time, they suggest trying a different day for those wanting to dine there and planning accordingly when ordering for pickup.
“We make lunch cuts from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.,” said Wenzel. “It’s a really big deal here.”
Slices are $3 each and large (a 16-inch pizza comes in six slices).
The pizzeria is open in winter from Monday to Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
They said they hope to offer delivery in the future.
“Our intention is to do that,” said Wenzel. “But we are so busy now that we cannot at the moment. The ovens are full and secured.”
Wenzel said he will continue to support community events like Shop with a Hero and National Night Out, for which he has delivered pizza in the past.
“You have to give something back to the community,” he said.