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"Brothers bring pizza to downtown Marengo"
By CHRIS FREEMAN - email@example.com
MARENGO – A pair of Marengo-grown brothers rang in the New Year by serving pizza, and say they have built a loyal customer base during the past two months.
StoneBakers Pizza opened Jan. 1 in downtown Marengo at 103 Municipal Lot Drive, offering carryout and delivery for pizza, sandwiches, ribs and appetizers. Marengo natives Mike and David DeRose said they have been talking about opening their own restaurant for years.
“[We’ve talked about it] probably for a decade, my brother and I and our dad [Louis],” Mike DeRose said. “We always talked about it for a long time. We were in construction and eating out every day, and we’d look for great food at a reasonable price, and we always talked about it ourselves.”
The brothers had an ace in the hole, a family friend named Lucio Bennici.
“Our cook is a great pizza maker,” DeRose said of Bennici. “He’s been in the pizza business since he was 5 years old. He came from Chicago and is good friends with my dad. Dad always said if we ever do this, he’s your guy.”
Mike and David DeRose had experience in bar and restaurant management before joining their father in the construction industry. They run the business end of the restaurant while Bennici handles the cooking.
“He’s ran many a kitchen, and we’ve done other aspects,” Mike DeRose said. “So we thought that was the niche for keeping costs down and service great pizza. We’re in a small building, and one of us is pretty much here all the time, so that keeps costs down and helps us keep an eye on every pizza.”
In addition to the pizza, DeRose said the restaurant got rave reviews from customers on its Italian beef sandwiches and calzones. He said the decision to locate downtown was an easy one.
“We wanted it downtown because when we grew up here, downtown was always a vibrant area,” he said. “It got to be the place where you could get a sandwich or pizza. That’s why we looked around here. We knew the owner and the rent was reasonable.”
The restaurant is getting business from people who walk and drive through town, as well as delivery service that stretches from Garden Prairie to the tollway. DeRose said he and his brother got serious about deciding to open the restaurant last summer, than began work in the fall to make it happen.
“With the way the economy is, we figured now is the time,” he said. “It’s a labor of love, no question. There’s 14-hour days, but when you’re loving it, it’s OK."
“Nobody believed in us when we started, but they couldn’t read what was in our mind and hearts. We knew what we could do and what we were capable of. We have a lot of loyal customers after two months. Fridays about 6, you can see controlled chaos.”
Judging from the crowds, Mike DeRose said they’ve enjoyed watching the activity.
“Once you try it, you’ll enjoy it and come back,” he said. “We kind of embody the spirit of small business again. You see us, we’re here every day. It’s very personalized, very one-on-one with the customer. It’s the kind of place we wanted to walk into.”