TWIN LAKES — All was not lost when the Driftwood restaurant in Twin Lakes was demolished in December. The restaurant’s award-winning pizza, and the nearly 50 years of experience behind it, lives on.

Mark Wenzel can now be found tossing dough behind the counter at Due Laghi Pizzeria, 405 N. Lake Ave., located within the Trader Brothers Mini Mall.

“I make all my sauce and dough fresh, from scratch, daily,” Wenzel said while cranking out the pies on a recent Wednesday night. “We grind our own cheese, slice our own pepperoni, and all our vegetables are sliced fresh.”

Wenzel’s faithful fan base extends beyond Twin Lakes and its seasonal crowd. Many who worked at Great Lakes Naval Base will recognize his 16-spice signature sauce and famous BLT and Firebox (Italian beef) specialty pies served at Roman Coin Pizza.

Wenzel, who started making pizza at the age 13 at the first two Little Caesar’s locations in the nation, went on to own a chain of 13 Roman Coin locations throughout northern Illinois.

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He also continues to draw former customers from south of the Illinois border who developed a craving for his pizza and baked-fresh submarine sandwiches at restaurants he owned in Antioch, Ill. (JC’s and Kokomo’s) and in Lake Villa, Ill. (The Railhouse).

“The cheesy breadsticks have their own following,” Sue Harms, who works the front end, said, adding any topping can be added.

Fortuitous timing

With the closing of Driftwood, Wenzel found himself without a location at the same time Mike Pusateri was looking for a food option at his mini mall.

“I was mainly directing it towards them,” Pusateri said of his bid for potential partners. “I have always wanted to have food here to help create foot traffic for the other vendors in the mini mall, which still has spaces for rent.”

Other tenants include Black Walnut Ridge artisan gifts, Keno Kicks footwear, Little Mountain Art, and BK Glass Bro, in addition to 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 interior entrance to the mini mall. Due Laghi (Italian for two lakes) features a self-serve counter and indoor seating for 20.

Patrons in the dining room can catch a glimpse of Wenzel the dough high in the air on in the kitchen.

Busy from the start

A not-so-soft opening on Dec. 18 — the day Driftwood was demolished — thrust them into business.

“It was like, bam, everybody saw us opening and came in,” Pusateri, whose wife Bobbie is also a partner in the business, said.

The rush has continued. Because Friday and Saturday night traffic has resulted in hour-long waits, they suggest trying a different day for those who want to dine in and to plan accordingly if ordering for pickup.

“We do slices for lunch from 11 to 2,” Wenzel said. “That’s a really big thing here.”

Slices are $3 each and are large (a 16-inch pizza nets six slices).

The pizzeria is operating under winter hours of 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

They said they hope to offer delivery in the future.

“Our intentional is to do that,” Wenzel said. “But we’re so busy now, we can’t at this time. The ovens are full and backed up.”

Wenzel said he will also continue to support community events, such as Shop with a Hero and National Night Out, for which he has supplied pizza in the past.

“You’ve got to give back to the community,” he said.

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