Wilmette, News

Time is up for Big Tomato in downtown Wilmette

A table is opening up in downtown Wilmette’s dining scene.

After 13 years at 1109 Central Ave., Big Tomato Pizzeria’s final day is Friday, June 28.

Facing declining revenue and an expiring lease, Big Tomato owner Alberto Martinez said “it was about time” to close up shop.

A 60-year-old Evanston resident, Martinez said he will retire just a couple of years earlier than anticipated.

“It’s weird. I don’t think I realize it yet,” Martinez said of closing; though, he added that the situation was becoming more and more real with every logo he removed from the pizzeria’s decorative walls.

Since announcing Big Tomato’s pending closure, Martinez has received a shower of praise and gifts from his loyal customers. One brought him a cake, another a bottle of wine and another a punny toy that says, “You have a ‘pizza’ my heart.”

Customers’ messages on a sign announcing the closing of Big Tomato in Wilmette.

In an industry where complaints can outweigh compliments, Martinez said he appreciates the support.

“The community has supported us a lot, especially the last two weeks,” he said. “Since we announced (the closing), it has been overwhelming.”

He added, “Most people don’t take the time to compliment. So when they do, I try to really appreciate it.”

Big Tomato opened in downtown Wilmette in 2011, helping to usher in a restaurant boom in the business district. Valley Lodge, Sophia Steak, Pit & Tap, Pescadero Seafood and Oyster Bar, Napolita Pizzeria and Wine Bar, EvaDean’s and more soon followed.

Big Tomato became known for its spinach deep dish and Big Tomato special, a thin crust pie with sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers. The pizzeria also serves a variety of salads, sandwiches, pastas and more.

Martinez said business picked up during the first years of the pandemic, as residents supported local and turned to takeout and delivery options.

He said Big Tomato was in good shape until about November 2023, when he noticed business begin to decline.

“Some days we were surprisingly busy and then the next day — same weather, same everything — it would be down,” he said. “I think there is a lot of competition now. There are really good restaurants opening around here. There is a lot going on.”

Big Tomato was one of four pizza joints — Lefty’s Pizza Kitchen, Napolita and Pizza by Sal — in the two-block business district known as Village Center in Wilmette.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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