Aurelio’s: Bringing Authentic Chicago to SWFL For Two Decades
February 17, 2017
Known for its welcoming atmosphere and homemade Chicago-style pizza, Aurelio’s will be celebrating its anniversary here in Naples after 20 years of satisfying its loyal customers. The official anniversary party will be held on March 22.
Aurelio’s originally opened up in Homewood, Illinois in 1959, and is the fifth oldest pizza chain in the country. When it first opened, it had one pizza oven and room for only four tables. Aurelio’s is praised for its secret pizza sauce and its homemade dough and Italian sausage.
“We tag ourselves as the family pizzeria since 1959, and our goal was always to have a comfortable place where you can have a 5-year-old and an 85-year-old sitting in the same facility,”
Joe Aurelio said, son of founder Joseph Aurelio Jr. and current owner of Aurelio’s.
Joseph Aurelio Jr., son of a cash register salesman, first opened up Aurelio’s in a modest storefront. He eventually expanded to more places in Illinois, then to Indiana, Nevada and Florida. Aurelio’s main focus for his restaurant chain was to maintain the proper recipes and the welcoming customer service that was always personally provided.
“Over the years, more and more of our customers started calling my dad from all over and told him they grew up eating his pizza and wanted to start a franchise,” Joe said. “That’s really how it started, from our customer base wanting good pizza in their town.”
He doubted the possibility of being able to maintain the restaurant the way he worked so hard to make it, but eventually it continued to expand and serve quality pizza. When Aurelio passed away in 2001, there were 28 locations open in those different states. Now, there are 42.
“It’s really special when you have customers walk up to you and tell you they met their wife at my restaurant on a first date in 1968 and have been coming ever since,” Joe said. “We had my family’s funeral lunch in there, had my dad’s retirement party there and had my baby’s baptism party there.”
For the 20th anniversary, Aurelio’s handed out special envelopes that customers are not allowed to open until March 22. They come to the restaurant the day of the official anniversary party to enjoy a meal. Once they are finished with their meal, they get to open the envelope, which will contain a coupon ranging from 20% off to a free meal.
They will also be hosting raffles for their customers to enter to win all sorts of prizes the day of the anniversary. This is how Aurelio’s always celebrates their anniversaries all over the country.
“It gives people the recognition they deserve after being open for so many years because they help make it possible,” Joe said. “We do this to give back to the regular customers that go there all the time.”
Aurelio’s has brought a unique flavor to different areas nationwide, bringing together all groups of people who want to meet and reminisce about the pizza they grew up with in their hometown. Aurelio’s will be celebrating 20 years of success in Naples and wants the opportunity to share the experience with all the customers who made it possible.
“I think it’s definitely brought the best thin crust pizza to the gulf coast in South Florida,” Joe said. “If people haven’t had Chicago pizza, then we’ve introduced it to them. We’ve dug in deep in people’s lives and we’re just memories for them and it’s really rewarding.”
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