ANGELA ACCOMANDO

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   There's not too much unique about a pizza restaurant, or one that delivers. What makes Francesca Pizza in Norway unique is not only the quality of food many rave about, but the fact it delivers to seven rural towns, something rural residents typically don't expect. Delivery to Norway, Sheridan, Newark, Wedron, Serena, Lisbon, Millington and the Fox River Resort area allows Francesca to stand out. When the Ray family moved to Serena from the northwest sub­urbs 15 years ago, pizza delivery was something they didn't question. They were disappointed to find it was something they'd have to sacrifice. Their only option at the time was meeting a driver halfway in Ottawa to obtain a fresh pie. Thanks to Francesca, they are able to take advantage of what most suburbanites take for granted. "I can't believe they deliver this far out. Since finding Francesca, no more frozen pizzas for me," T. Ray said. Owned by Pietro "Pete" Par­rino and his family, Francesca Pizza opened in Norway in Sep­tember 2001, and was named for Pete's daughter and mother. The local favorite will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. "My daughter was about 5 or 6 years old at the time and was vacationing with his wife in Italy when I started the new business. I was excited for her to come home and see the restau­rant named for her, but the sign hadn't arrived yet," Parrino told the Times. "When she got here, luckily there were some deliveries marked, 'de­liver to Francesca,' and when she saw them her face lit up and she said, 'That's my name.' " In a village by the beach in Pal­ermo, Sicily -in the "boot" of Italy, Parrino spent many years working in the family-owned bakery, a job he disliked. "I was young and we lived so close to the beach. I wasn't think­ing cooking and baking. I wanted to spend my days in the sun, not working." But fate had another plan for him, and he eventually returned to the days of hot ovens and pleas­ing folks with family recipes. Parrino came to the United States in 1990 to start life in a country his

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Francesca offers piece of Italy in Norway

mother, already here, bragged about. In his village in Palermo he had met a young woman named Kathy, who fre­quently vacationed in Sicily. He considers his love for her a main reason for making the trek to a new land. The two made their home first in Brooklyn, N.Y.,but didn't feel quite at home there, and the engineering degree Parrino acquired

in Italy was not panning out as he hoped. With family already in Illinois, he decided to move himself and his true love to Oswego. Once there, the two started a family. Francesca

was born in 1995 and the couple later welcomed two sons -Giacomo and Giuseppe. Besides Giuseppe, only 5

  months old, the entire family -­including Pete's brother, Frank, who came to America just one year ago –helps with the restau­rant. Parrino operated Genoa Pizza in Yorkville, but after conflicts with corporate rules imposed by food chain executives, decided to go on his own and start a new endeavor in Norway. Just hours before his grand opening, a man knocked on his door. The restaurant was not officially opened and Parrino hesitated answering. "I wasn't quite ready and when

you're opening a new place you want everything to be just right," he said. Still, his mother insisted. "Just let him in, Kathy will take care of him and you and I will do all the cooking," she said. So he did and that man gave Parrino the confidence he needed.

"He was staying at Fox River and came every day for three days. He tried the pizza, the sand­wiches and dinner. On the third day, he declared, as he pointed to me - in front of a full house. "You! You are going to make it. I've tried everything and everything is really good.' " That same man came back every year for eight years whenever he stayed at the resort, and he and Parrino became good friends. "He hasn't been back for the last two years, and being an older gentleman, I really hope he is OK," Parrino said sadly. As for selecting Norway, the choice was easy for Parrino. "The rent was right and the need was there. There's nothing else around here. I could've opened a fancy restaurant, but this is what I know and I wanted a place where people would find good, homemade, authentic food and feel at home," he said. Parrino said although his

place is small and the decor is simple, he focuses on the food and the feel.  "You want people to feel com­fortable, even if their shoes are dirty from working in the fields. We get a lot of truck drivers and

 

 

farmers and I don't want them to feel worried about messing things up. If they get the floor dirty, no problem, we'll clean it up," he joked. "The fact they leave happy and enjoyed the food is what is important."

   Regarding the unheard-of delivery in the country, Parrino said it was an important choice for him since he knew people hadn't had that option in the past. He then shared the story of a lady sandwiched between Otta­wa, Marseilles and Norway, with no option of pizza delivery. "She lives close to (Interstate) 80 and orders about twice a month. It's a 28-mile round trip for us, but she's a good customer. She knows that sometimes she'll have to wait a little longer on a Saturday night but she's willing to wait and I think that really says something about our food and her loyalty. "Sometimes she calls in ad­vance so I know to put her on the schedule." Parrino added he spends very little on advertising because his business has thrived so well on word of mouth. "When you put out good food and don't skimp, people notice. Norway has been very good to me and that says something too about the people here and the people who come through here," he said. Besides doing what he loves and being able to have his family near, Parrino loves Norway and the people he has met. "People out here are so great. I have many regulars and I treat them all the same whether they spend $2 or $50. I hope to be here a long time -maybe pass this down to my kids."

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Delivery to Norway, Sheridan, Newark, Wedron, Serena, Lisbon, Millington & Fox River Resort

815-496-9600                      815-496-9607