Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs: Pete Fejzuloski of Paisans Pizzeria & Bar
Welcome to Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs! This series is an opportunity to get a sneak peek into the remarkable individuals in Berwyn’s business community. This group of movers and shakers form the backbone of our local economy and keep Berwyn bold, vibrant and Nothing Like A Suburb. Enjoy!
Meet Pete Fejzuloski of Paisans Pizzeria & Bar, est. 1985
Hometown: Struga, Macedonia
Residence: Lemont, IL
Pete’s Bio: It’s been over 30 years since the first Paisans Pizza was opened in a modest 800 sq. ft space at 58th Ct & 16th St in Cicero, IL. A 7th grader eager to work, Pete Fejzuloski began working every day at his father Luigi’s new pizzeria in Cicero at just 14 years old. The carry-out shop had only a small residential oven and primarily sold pizza. They added a few other items like ice cream, candy and cigarettes to make ends meet. After six years of hustle, Luigi and Pete took Paisans Pizza to the next level and opened their second location in Brookfield. After a strong 25-year run, Pete wanted to offer more to his guests, so he studied the fast casual concept and opened his first full service restaurant in Berwyn. With his family at his side, Pete has continued to expand Paisans year-after-year with no end to his energy in sight. Paisans Pizza was built with family and continues to be operated in that tradition with his wife Julie; three sons Petey, Dominick and Jimmy; daughter Juliana and many loyal employees and customers.
What is the meaning behind the name Paisans?
My dad Luigi chose the name “Paisans,” which means “Friends.” There is a special togetherness in food and in eating with another person. He wanted to be sure that our name reflected that warm feeling.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I really enjoy designing the restaurants both conceptually and with my own two hands. I often have people visit the restaurants and ask me which architect designed the spaces for me or who built them out. They are often shocked when I tell them that it was me.
I am a big fan of the industrial look. I had a customer who worked for a local steel company. He brought me out to tour the facility, and I asked if I could purchase some of their materials. He said I could so I got in touch with a friend who owns a machine shop. I am grateful to have friends that could show me how to do this work and had a facility where I could make it a reality. I’ve personally worked on nearly every metal piece in the Lisle location from counters and steel walls to trusses. I also did a lot of work for the new Brookfield store.
As for other interests, I don’t drink, smoke or gamble. But I do have a vice — collecting and customizing cars and motorcycles. I have a few custom motorcycles and dragster on display in the Berwyn location so I can share my passion with my patrons. My first motorcycle was a 1986 Kawasaki Eliminator. I took it apart, chromed it and polished up the wheels. That was such an exciting feeling for me. Everything needs to be custom so they are different and unique. I do most of the work myself. For me, it’s very meditative and relaxing to take care of my vehicles. My kids have also taken an interest in cars and motorcycles so we go to events like World of Wheels and Cruise Nites together.
I’m grateful that I’ve had so many opportunities in my life. Sometimes I feel like I have to pinch myself when I see what I’ve been able to create.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I love to tell jokes and to see people laughing. An ideal day for me would be to have a barbecue at my house with family and friends. We’d be reminiscing about the old days.
I also love to spend time with my family outside of the restaurants. I have great memories of Julie and I taking the kids to the Wisconsin Dells over Spring break. Wherever we go, we spend the entire vacation together. We work a lot but it’s very important to me to have personal time where we can just enjoy each other and relax.
What do you enjoy most about being a restaurateur?
I love people. I love watching them eating and having a good time. To see a family dining together is a total pleasure for me. Food brings people together and can be a source of joy. It’s very exciting to me to be able to play a part in that joy. And I love to work with my family everyday. We have a lot of fun together.
Who is your greatest influence professionally?
I am inspired by the Portillo’s concept. They took a single little hot dog stand and grew it into a billion dollar franchise. I met Dick Portillo earlier this year at an event. He spent a few hours sharing his journey with me, and he later visited us at the Berwyn location to try our pizza. This was a really big deal — my idol came out to visit me at my restaurant. I was star-struck and humbled to have had the chance to get to know him.
What is your favorite dish from Paisans?
Of course I think the entire menu is great. If I was going for pizza, I sometimes keep it simple and stick with a slice of plain cheese pizza — it’s no frills but still one of my favorites. There’s also the Italian beef, giardiniera and green pepper pizza.
I also love our burgers. The Ape Hanger probably tops my list. It’s a juicy burger on a pretzel bun with grilled jalapeños, grilled onions, pepper jack cheese, chorizo and guacamole. It’s got a little kick and a lot of flavor. A couple of other go-to favorites are our chicken chili that’s on the menu every day and the chicken chipotle flatbread.
To what do you attribute your success?
I think a lot of my success has come from hard work and practicing street smarts. I didn’t go to college. My father and I built the business by grinding it out day in, day out and by treating our employees and customers like family. That might sound unoriginal but it’s the truth. We have some employees that have been with us for 20-25 years. Our customers are the same way. I go out of my way to show my appreciation to them.
I also like to stay involved in the community. I know that I am here because they support me, and I want to give back. I’ve sponsored all types of fundraisers, little league teams, adult softball, haunted houses — you name it. One of my biggest sponsorships is for the Berwyn Route 66 Car Show. I love automobile culture and the restaurant’s connection to Route 66 make that event a great match for us. It not only feels good to give back but I also understand that we’re all in this together.
The Business in Pete’s Words: Paisans Pizzeria is a cool pizza place built for our customer! We can credit our amazing food reviews for our whole menu (not just pizza!) to our 100% scratch kitchen. We strive to blow away our guests with every bite! For those dining in, we provide a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. For those looking to take it easy, we also offer carry out and delivery. No matter how you dine with us, we strive to be the best of the best!
Paisans Pizzeria & Bar has grown from its humble beginnings over 30 years ago in a small 800 square foot carry-out space in Cicero to five locations in Cicero (5840 W. 16th St), Brookfield (3720 Grand Blvd), Berwyn (6226 W. Ogden Ave), Lisle (2901 Ogden Ave) and at Morton College. Our Berwyn location is a 20,000 square foot full service restaurant with a full bar. We serve gourmet burgers, fresh salads, handmade pastas and the pizza you have always loved. Custom motorcycles, gorgeous fish tanks and big screen TVs make this the perfect place to meet with friends, bring your family or watch your favorite sports. We also have private party space for up to 170 guests and our Executive Chef can create anything you want. It’s been quite a slice and we have our loyal customers to thank. We are all looking forward to the next 30 years. In the meantime…LET’S EAT!