Life at a pizza shop


Katie Sharp

Sophomore Nic St. John waits for customers at the newly opened, family business Altamura in downtown Hinsdale.

Nic St. John acclimates to life after opening new family pizza company in downtown Hinsdale

The audible music and chatter emanates out through the open door onto West First Street in Hinsdale, welcoming residents into the brightly-lit, family-owned store. Sophomore Nic St. John stands behind the counter, slowly pouring the ripe, red tomato sauce atop the just-made dough. On the front counter lies half of a pizza, ready to be devoured by customers as they order their own delicately prepared take-home pizza.

The bright, airy room displays splashes of orange and a neat, aesthetically-pleasing list of the specialty prepared pizzas and salads on a chalkboard. Underneath is a small bar festooned with comfy bar stools. They wait for customers, but one is currently occupied by St. John.

On the other side of the counter, two employees prepare a new pizza, placing the fresh sausage and spinach atop the thick, shredded cheese. The smell of fresh mozzarella and newly rolled pizza dough fill the space, creating an immediate craving for anyone who enjoys the Italian delicacy.

“We always bring home pizzas at night,” St. John says. His favorite is the Calabrese, with fresh dough, homemade red sauce, nduja, and whole milk mozzarella cheese.

Altamura is still in its early stages, having opened on Dec. 6. Carmela St. John, Nic’s mother, and Ortensia Caputo, Nic’s aunt, co-own the new pizza company.

According to the Altamura’s website, the pizza crust differentiates itself from the rest, in that “the crusts are imported from the Puglia region in southern Italy, milled from the world-renown durum semolina wheat of Altamura.”

Nic has grown accustomed to life after his family has become a staple in the community.

Mrs. St. John explained that her and her sister had always dreamed of opening a company and when the space opened in Hinsdale, it was the perfect opportunity.

“The inspiration behind starting Altamura is the passion that we have for good food combined with the passion that we have for bringing our family (and now) other families together around the dinner table all while keeping it healthy, delicious and simple,” Mrs. St. John said. “Also, Altamura was my dad’s hometown, where my sister and I lived as children and where most of our products come from.”

According to the sisters, running the company involves hard work and long hours at the Hinsdale location.

“Instead of coming home every day to everyone home, I just do my homework and have to drive myself if I have practice,” Nic said. “But everyone comes home around 8 p.m.”

Nic usually works two days a week, including one weekday and one day during the weekend. But sometimes his schedule changes due to sports or other school activities.

“My parents were pretty lenient when I was in basketball season,” Nic said. “They didn’t make me come in and work during the week days when I had practice.”

Mrs. St. John explained that dinner was always their time as a family to “regroup and communicate.” She said that now it is hard to have consistent family dinners since Altamura is open until 7 p.m. during the week and 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The timing of doing this couldn’t have been better…with the boys now being self-sufficient and one of them away at school,” Mrs. St. John said. “My boys and husband have been very involved in our store and it has been very enjoyable to be able to build and grow a business together as a family.”

Nic also works alongside a lot of his close friends at Altamura, including Matt O’Neill, sophomore.

“It’s fun, and it’s entertaining [to work with Nic],” O’Neill said. “It’s not like other jobs where you’re just doing work.”

Nic is always eager to promote the business to his friends, often posting advertisements on his Snapchat and Instagram. He said he is excited to see what’s to come in the future and looks forward to plenty of nights with pizza to come.

“I love it. It’s been a great way for us to bond as a family,” Nic said. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do.”