Pizzeria an All-in-the-family Operation
March 15, 2016
By: Jessi Virtusio
Alex and Libby Popplewell, co-franchisees of Cedar Lake Aurelio’s Pizza, have a long association with the popular chain.
“Aurelio’s was actually one of my first jobs back when I was 16. I worked for [Libby’s] father, so that’s how we met,” said Alex Popplewell. His wife’s father, Luke Pascale, worked side by side with Aurelio’s founder, the late Joseph A. Aurelio Jr.
Pascale, and his wife, Paula, run Aurelio’s pizzerias in Griffith and Crete, Ill., and previously ran one in Portage. The new Portage Aurelio’s, which opened in February, is run by Joe McCullough.
The Cedar Lake Aurelio’s opened in January in the former Zuni’s House of Pizza.
“We really like St. John and Cedar Lake. They are both younger, growing communities. We think Aurelio’s is a really strong brand. To bring it to these communities was a really nice thing for us,” said Popplewell, of St. John.
Famous for its homemade crust, the chain was founded in 1959 in Homewood, Ill., and now has 41 locations across six states.
“Our most popular pizza is either sausage or pepperoni. We’ve got every topping imaginable and several different sauce toppings,” Popplewell said. “I see a lot more people ordering spinach pizza or veggie pizza versus eight or nine years ago when people were ordering every meat we had or extra cheese. We’re selling a lot more chicken pizza. That’s become very popular.”
Thin-crust pizzas start at $5.50 and come in 6-, 10-, 13-, 15- and 18-inch varieties. The pizza dough is made fresh daily using cholesterol-free canola oil. Gluten-free crust also is available.
Appetizers start at $3.50, salads start at $4.25, sandwiches start at $6.99 and pasta starts at $8.95. The Italian antipasto salad has been a hit, according to Popplewell, who previously worked at Horseshoe Hammond, including as bar operations manager.
A buffet is available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. “Not every Aurelio’s offers a buffet. It’s got pizza, a full salad bar and items like chicken, Italian beef, potato, pasta and breadsticks. It’s a very good lunch option.”
The 3,200-square-foot location offers a drive-through window for pickup, a delivery area that includes portions of unincorporated Lowell and Crown Point, catering, take-n-bake pizzas, and seating for 95 indoors and an additional 25 on the patio.
“Aurelio’s is popular with diners because their product is really unique. It’s often imitated, but I have yet to find a pizza that is identical or better,” he said.
The Cedar Lake Aurelio’s offers bottled, craft, domestic and import beer along with wine by the glass and some cocktails.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
Address: 12939 Wicker Ave., Cedar Lake.
Contact: 219-401-8188 or www.aureliospizza.com.
Jessi Virtusio is a freelance reporter.
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