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Bankrupt Windy City Pizza leaves clients empty

CARROLLWOOD — In the windows decorated with the Chicago skyline at Windy City Pizza, all the neon lights advertising draft beer from around the world have dimmed.

The more than 20-year-old pizzeria closed its doors earlier this summer and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in federal court.

Known for its Chicago-style deep dish pizzas, Windy City Pizza Enterprises Inc. claims to have between $50,001 and $100,000 in debt to more than 30 creditors, according to its initial filing.

Creditors range from credit card companies and food suppliers, to advertisers and repair companies.

Neighbors said they never saw any signs of financial trouble.

"People loved that place," said Sam Stortz of Centerstage Dance Academy next door. "Even after they closed I had a little old couple come back once a week for three weeks trying to figure out where they'd gone."

Stortz said the loss also affected the kids at the academy because Windy City's prices for children's meals were more affordable than Chili's, the only restaurant left in the shopping center.

"It's a shame because the kids used to love their breadsticks," Stortz said.

Windy City was last in the news in 2000, when one of its delivery drivers was murdered in an ambush.

Then 23-year-old Eduardo Natal was delivering a pizza to a Carrollwood address when he was shot and killed by Earl "E.J." Hinson III, who then stole his car with a friend, Harold Wolf, and headed to the Loop Pizza Grill in an attempt to kill two others.

Owner Bill Henry and staffers started a memorial fund for the man's family in Brazil and sent the family a scrapbook about his life in America.

Stortz said the restaurant's closing was a surprise to other tenants.

"The day before he closed I asked him was he leaving and he said 'Nope. I'll be in tomorrow,' " she recalled.

Henry could not be reached for comment.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or rmitchell@sptimes.com.

Bankrupt Windy City Pizza leaves clients empty 08/14/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2008 2:54pm]
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