NY Slice of Life

Appears in the January 2024 issue.

By Peter Gianopulos

Little Pops gives New York–style pizza a footing in Illinois

The staff at Little Pop’s NY Pizzeria

Earlier this year, the Washington Post declared that Little Pop’s NY Pizzeria (1819 Wehrli Rd.) in Naperville served the best New York–style pizza in the entire state of Illinois. As Empire State transplants, owners Mike and Vicki Nelson were, of course, elated, but they downplayed their achievement with so much modesty you’d swear they were born and raised in Humble Pie, USA.

“We don’t get into the ‘My pizza is better than yours’ thing,” Mike says. “Truth is, we all come to work every day, hoping to make the best pizzas that we can and keeping people happy.”

The first time the couple ordered a pizza in Naperville, they thought someone was pranking them. Thick cheese? A pound of sausage? And what in the sweet name of Fiorello La Guardia was with the square cuts? As any New Yorker will tell you: Real pizza ain’t cut into tiny rectangles; it’s cut into floppy triangular slices. Gotta be firm, floppy, and foldable.

A slice of pizza from Little Pop’s NY Pizzeria

Which is exactly what you get at Pop’s. Their dough is made with flour that’s been producing pies in New York since the 1940s—from a recipe created by a nephew who runs a pizza parlor back in New York. (So you know it’s legit.) And then there’s Pop’s famous pizza sauces. Every day, Mike preps two different versions: a loose red sauce, heavy on the basil, and a slightly chunkier and sweeter Sicilian-style sauce, so authentic it’ll have you humming the melody from The Godfather.

“Our regulars, the kids we hire, the people in this community—they’re like a second family to us now,” Mike says. “The most rewarding thing, every December, is seeing those kids come back home and want to eat your food again. At the end of the day, that’s the mark of a good pizza.”

Joining the original Naperville location and an express spot in Aurora, Little Pops is opening a Lisle location this winter.


Photos: Little Pops NY Pizzeria/Stuart Meyerolder