Photos by Grace Del Vecchio

Imagine you walk by a restaurant and before you even open the door you smell the food inside. 

The savory sting of sausage and spices—pepper, onion and basil hit your nose. As you walk inside the restaurant, the sun to your back, a welcoming street sign on the right wall lets you know you’re in the right spot.  

De Arcos Pizza #2 has a menu so vast that it takes up most of the wall opposite the front door. Imagine an oasis of food in a desert of boring buildings. De Arcos is the oasis of South Chicago on the corner of 87th and Muskegon.

De Arcos Pizza is a place where the broke can get their money’s worth. The restaurant feels like a family potluck, and it’s easy to see from the 87th Street bus when I travel from work to my boyfriend’s place. Named after the founding family, the De Arcos, the South Chicago location has been around for eighteen years; the business itself, much longer—at least thirty years, according to its staff. With its first iteration at 63rd and California in Chicago Lawn, De Arcos moved to its current location when the original owner’s son took over the business. While the staff didn’t know why the Jalisco-born Mexican family wanted to open a restaurant known for its Italian-American comfort food, they said it’s never failed to be a staple. 

It was a place that showcased a different kind of flavor from the Mexican food and the bakeries I was used to in the neighborhood. The surrounding area is filled with now-closed businesses along with a laundromat and some corner stores. Most grocery stores require a car or a long CTA commute to get to, and it feels like a food desert because of this. But even with the limited other options I am glad that the workers at De Arcos are so sweet. To this day, even the delivery driver asks me about my grandma.

I ordered from De Arcos for the first time in 2017. I was working as a salon assistant at my grandma’s salon, right next to Jesse Park. 

I rummaged around in one of the salon’s junk drawers until I found the white paper menu with bright red and green ink. I opened the menu to see a broad list: pizza, sandwiches, pasta and side options, featuring gyros, Italian beef, and lasagna. I love pasta and I was craving chicken alfredo, so I tried it out. 

I paid around $17 with tip and was shocked at the size of the bags that arrived with my can of orange pop. I opened the bag and there was a huge metal container inside with a clear lid showing the noodles and hot chicken sliced on top, with a piece of bread wedged on the side. It took both hands to hold it and it was steaming as I opened the container. When I brought my food back to the salon, everyone wanted to see what I had as I sprinkled parmesan cheese on top. The noodles were thick, long and covered in sauce and pepper, the chicken was well seasoned too. It smelled so cheesy, and was the perfect blend of soft and chewy. 

I took a fork full of pasta with sliced chicken on it and put that on top of the bread. I always ended up needing to wipe my face after each bite. I didn’t want to look bad in front of customers  with the alfredo sauce smeared all over my cheeks and chin. 

Photos by Grace Del Vecchio

After that, I made it a habit of rewarding myself by ordering from De Arcos. Once a week, whenever I was heavily tipped by some of the nicest old ladies I’ve ever known, I would pull out my phone and call the now-saved number. 

Then, just before COVID-19 hit, my aunty was in a really bad car crash. She was one of our best hair stylists, and we lost a lot of our regulars. Since I was someone who was mostly paid in tips, this left me struggling financially. With the uncertainty of everything between college classes and what would happen to all the old ladies my family took care of, I needed to order comfort food on a budget.

De Arcos Pizza has a special on the back of the menu: one slice of pizza, small fries and a can of pop for $10.10. I asked everyone in the salon if they wanted something and then I walked eight blocks to pick up the food. As I walked by building after building, I knew I was going the right way by keeping an eye out for the giant sign atop De Arcos’s red building. I walked into clean white floors, the soft smell of spices, and coin-operated vending machines with random capsules and fake tattoos.

When I got back, my grandma ate her usual choice of a gyro with cheese and fries, with hot peppers on the side. I had a slice of pizza the size of my forearm. She could never finish her meal, so it was a good thing we had a cooler in the break room. 

That was the last meal I had with my grandma. I didn’t get to see her again before she passed away in April 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown. Without her or my aunt, the salon closed its doors after forty-three years. 

Though I miss her dearly and it took me some time to heal, I am so happy I can always go to De Arcos Pizza and remember the good times. 

De Arcos Pizza #2, 2832 E. 87th St. (773) 731-0300. Sun–Thu, 11am–10pm. Fri-Sat, 11am–11pm.​

Join the Conversation


  1. Lasone’s article was so interesting that I decided to go there for dinner real soon, thank you Lasone for the recommendation for a place not far from home to get good food!

  2. Definitely can relate. De Arcos Pizza has been part of my family tradition for over 3o years. Starting from the 1st De Arcos location, and following to De Arcos # 2 till the day. The taste of the huge pizza slices, the delicious crispy Pizza puffs that have never failed my expectations. Every now and then I still drive my father all the way out there (30 min drive) to enjoy and reminice our times at the 63rd De Arcos location. I am forever thankful for this family owned business that make you feel at home having a home made meal. Thank you De Arcos Family

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *