LOS ANGELES – If you think the fried beauty above looks good enough to eat, don’t worry, there’s a lot more like it coming to Chicago. Rich Labriola, the self-titled Chief Doughboy of the Chicago bakery bearing his name, is partnering with the venerable Stan’s Donuts of Westwood, CA, converting the former Skewerz space in Wicker Park to a coffee/doughnut shop under a new licensing agreement.
Donut shops are as common in L.A. as hot dog joints in Chicago, but there was something special about the old school shop near UCLA’s campus. “I felt a connection with Stan from the first time I met him,” said Labriola. “He is as passionate about his doughnuts as I am about my breads. Also, I like his history. 50 years in the same location; we also will have the opportunity to own the brand in the future.”
Up until now, Chicago’s doughnut shops have had their respective neighborhoods locked up to themselves: Do-Rite in the Loop, The Doughnut Vault and Firecakes in River North, Dat Donut on the South Side and Old Fashioned Donut in Roseland. Meanwhile, Glazed & Infused has its HQ in the West Loop, with satellite locations in Lincoln Park and Wicker Park (the latter a small window operating out of the back of Francesca’s Forno). But Labriola says he wants to open a true doughnut/coffee shop, even if it happens to be directly across the street from that tiny window, thus setting up an intense, albeit friendly doughnut smackdown on Damen.
“Chicago for some reason doesn’t have a donut/coffee shop heritage. We’ll have 1,300 square feet and 20 seats; my operating partner is a true coffee guy,” he said.
Labriola says they’ll offer both yeast-raised and cake donuts, and each will be made with a specially formulated bread starter to add another layer of complexity, rarely found in Chicago’s burgeoning doughnut scene. But he says he’s not about to go the way of wacky, often mismatched flavors that have been popping up lately; don’t expect to see any cronuts, either.
“I like simple flavors. For me, making a great glazed donut is the equivalent of making a great baguette, or pain au levain. I would say one of my favorite donuts is the cinnamon twisted pretzel or the peanut butter pocket,” he said.