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Nick's Pizza and Pub owner fighting lawsuit after customer slips on peanut shells

Nick’s Pizza and Pub owner Nick Sarillo poses for a portrait May 12 outside his Crystal Lake restaurant.
Nick’s Pizza and Pub owner Nick Sarillo poses for a portrait May 12 outside his Crystal Lake restaurant.

CRYSTAL LAKE – At some restaurants, wiping peanut shells off the table and onto the floor is part of the business’s charm, but that wasn’t the case for a Roselle woman suing a Crystal Lake restaurant business after slipping on those shells.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 22 in Kane County court, states that on Jan. 23, 2016, Nanci Zappia slipped and fell on discarded peanut shells while walking down a ramp at the restaurant at Nick’s Pizza and Pub, 990 S. Randall Road, Elgin.

Restaurant owner Nick Sarillo opened his first Nick’s Pizza and Pub in Crystal Lake in 1995, modeling it after the pizza place his father, Nick Sr., had owned in Carpentersville.

“My dad’s restaurant had the peanut shells and the fun, family environment,” Sarillo said. “For me, having fun with free peanuts and peanut shells was another important part of having a fun place for the family.”

Over the years, the business expanded, gaining its Elgin restaurant in 2005 and a spot in Lincoln Square in 2017.

According to the lawsuit, Zappia was walking down a ramp to get to the Elgin restaurant’s lower level and landed on a step on the upper floor, near the tables.

The fall caused “severe injuries” to her head, shoulders, neck, hips and ankle, said her attorney, Paul Millewich.

“Peanut shells on a flat surface probably wouldn’t have caused the accident, the fall,” Millewich said. “That’s where the danger is – when those peanut shells get on an incline, then they become dangerous.”

Zappia and Millewich have asked for $50,000 and reimbursement for legal fees, although Millewich said his client likely is owed more than $100,000.

“She had to redo a cervical fusion. That’s in the neck,” Millewich said. “It’s cost her over $75,000 for her medical bills so far.”

Millewich said he would have tried to settle the lawsuit sooner, but Zappia still is receiving medical care as a result of the fall, more than a year later.

Sarillo declined to comment on the lawsuit while it is ongoing, but said in the more than 20 years the company has been in business, peanut shells have become as much a part of the restaurant’s identity as the food it serves.

Losing the shells would be akin to losing part of its reputation, he said.

“I can’t tell you how many kids don’t even know the name of the restaurant,” Sarillo said. “They just know it as ‘the peanut place.’ ”

The restaurant’s logo even uses a small peanut as the apostrophe in “Nick’s.”

“We would never in a million years do anything that would be harmful to anybody,” Sarillo said.

The case will pick up
April 17 in Kane County court.

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