Wendy Puff / Instagram

New Neapolitan Eatery Fires Up Pies With the Right Puff

Brothers Bob and Mike Mayo have turned a quirky song title, "Wendy Puff," into a pizza restaurant that's just as quirky.

Bob Mayo originally wanted to start a band with his brother, Mike. After a change of plans, they opened a pizzeria instead. But one crucial part of their plan stuck: Bob had written a song, called “Wendy Puff,” for the new musical initiative. And that’s how the newest pizza shop in Eureka, Illinois, came to be known as Wendy Puff Pizzeria + Pub.

FYI, it’s also the name the owners gave to their splendid Fiero Forni oven, because, once you hit upon a catchy name, you just want to keep using it everywhere, even if it doesn’t sound terribly Italian.

Wendy Puff opened recently with some nice hype from the Peoria Journal Star. Menu items include the Green Hornet (walnut pesto, garlic, walnuts, sausage, Parmesan, fior di latte and arugula tossed with extra-virgin olive oil); the Michael McDonald (cream, garlic, Calabrian chilies, basil, Parmesan, fior di latte and arugula); and the Wendy City (crushed tomatoes, spicy giardiniera, sausage, basil, Parmesan and whole-milk mozz).

Related: Italian experts name the best artisan pizza chains in the world

Also on the current menu is the Fall Seasonal Special, featuring roasted butternut squash, garlic, walnuts, sausage, sage, Parmesan, fior di latte and hot honey.

The owners of Wendy Puff pose with their mother between them. The brother on the left holds a plate stacked with pizza crusts.
The Mayo brothers with their mom at the North American Pizza & Culinary Academy. (Wendy Puff / Instagram)

According to the Wendy Puff website, Mike is the “entrepreneurial mind” behind the restaurant and also has a fulltime marketing job. Bob, the executive chef, trained at DCT, now the Culinary Arts Academy, in Switzerland. He’s a musician, too, and the idea to start a band—and its name—came to him in the shower.

As Mike explains on the website, “Over a year ago, Bob (a talented musician) had a tune come to him where most brilliant ideas come (the shower), and the name of the song would be something we’d joke about for months. ‘Hey, when you move home, we should start a band named x!’ When I did eventually move home, and the idea to open a restaurant became a reality, it was clear that the old song title had to be the name of our restaurant: Wendy Puff Pizzeria + Pub.”

To hone their pizza-making skills, the brothers took a course at the North American Pizza & Culinary Academy prior to opening Wendy Puff in early November. As they explained in a May 27 post on Instagram, “We worked with our same oven model, made and stretched a ton of dough, gained a few pounds and took lots of written and mental notes.” They described the NAPCA as “such a cool environment—teams from Italy coming in to work on equipment, well-known establishments perfecting recipes while using new gear—and we got to try it all, high-five the teams and say, ‘Nice work!’”

But the Mayo brothers don’t actually use the word “pizza” on their menu. In keeping with their quirky theme, they prefer “puffs.”

That term pays homage to the texture of the perfect Neapolitan cornicione. “It should be PUFFY,” they write on their website. “So, of course, we named our new oven Wendy, and she puts out delicious ‘puffs,’ which is what we informally call our pizzas. It’s all in good fun and all part of our story on this fun adventure.”