Roots Handmade Pizza brings Q-C-style pizza to Chicago

Posted Online: May 31, 2011, 6:44 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By John Marx,
Marv Wise chuckled at the reversal of roles, noting that for years Quad-Citians have clamored for Chicago-style pizza.

Now, thanks to Wise and fellow Rock Island native Greg Mohr, Chicagoans will be in search of Quad-Cities-style pizza.

"They are eating this stuff up," Wise, owner of Wise Guy's Pizza, said of Mohr's Roots Handmade Pizza, which opened Tuesday in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood (1924 Chicago Ave.), northwest of the Loop.

Wise, who began his career with Harris Pizza, has been in Chicago with Roots' staffers for three weeks. He has an agreement with Mohr to supply the Wise Guy's Pizza recipe and spices for Roots. The goal is to perfect a style of pizza that has graced the Q-C landscape for 50 years.

"Things are fantastic," Mohr said in a phone conversation from Chicago. "Home has finally reached Chicago in the world of pizza."

Roots is the second Windy City business venture for Mohr, 33, who also owns Fifty/50, a sports bar with great food. Mohr's Fifty/50 chicken wings were chosen by the Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, to be the official wing served at Wrigley Field.

Taking the relationship a step further, the Ricketts have invested in Roots.

"Curtis Granderson (of the New York Yankees) and Pierre Thomas (New Orleans Saints), also have invested with us," Mohr said. "Great guys. Just the best. The Ricketts have been wonderful to work with on so many fronts. To have them love Fifty/50's wings enough to put them in Wrigley and to be part of what we are doing at Roots means a great deal to us."

Mohr, a business graduate of Illinois State University, chuckled and said "Finally!'' when asked about incorporating the Quad-Cities into a Chicago-based business.

"If I can't have a Jim's Rib Haven franchise — and I would drink that sauce by the gallon — then Wise Guy's was next with pizza," Mohr said. "I have known Marv forever and understand his background.

"When I thought the dream of bringing Quad-Cities-style pizza to Chicago was never going to happen, I found out a friend's fiance used to babysit Marv's daughter. That made me think the time was right to call Marv again and go after this."

Mohr is using the same spices and products Wise uses to produces his Wise Guy's pizza. A Roots pizza will have the signature fennel-flaked sausage, malt-heavy dough and sweet, spicy tomato sauce.

"The soft openings (of Roots) have been great," Wise said. "Greg said he has met people from Moline, East Moline and Rock Island, who live in the neighborhood and have been by several times. That says something, when Quad-Citians living here come to you."

For Mohr, a 1996 Rock Island High School graduate, Roots is dream No. 2 in his career.

"I wrote a paper in fourth grade noting I wanted to own a restaurant in Chicago and I wanted to wear a suit," he said. " My mom gave me the paper — framed — when we opened Fifty/50. Now we have Roots. Hopefully there will be Roots across the country."

A sign Roots will be a success happened during a recent friends-and-family gathering at the restaurant.

"A friend's wife had been a vegetarian for 12 years," Mohr said. "And she had our sausage pizza. It was so good, she stepped over that line. That's a good sign."

Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.

(More History)