Sergio Lazzara began working at his father’s restaurant when he was just 12.
And after the Des Plaines native graduated from high school, he ventured back to his dad's part of Sicily, the southernmost region of Italy, where he spent time on a farm.
“My dad retired and went back to Sicily and that’s where I learned the trade of cooking," Lazzara said.
“I was on the farm every day and learned the art of cooking,” he added.
When he returned to the Chicago area, he drove a produce truck. That meant waking up at 1 a.m. and making sure his deliveries were on time.
One of the places he dropped off produce was a Park Ridge hot dog restaurant that happened to be for sale. It was small storefront, but Lazzara saw an opportunity, and at a young age he opened his first pizzeria at 516 Higgins Road.
“I was 21, it was a very small spot and it ended up being successful,” he said. [Park Ridge is] very embracing, they’re very positive. They really backed me, which was very nice.”
After several years, Lazzara decided to sell the business and move into a larger space, now Affresco Pizzeria & Lounge, 11 N. Northwest Highway.
“I sold it and the restaurant is still there,” he said regarding his first pizzeria. “And the business is still thriving.”
Lazzara said he decided to stay in Park Ridge because of the family-like atmosphere.
“Just growing up in the next town over, I had a lot of friends in Park Ridge,” he said. “I just felt everybody knew everybody. In the end, I just felt at home here. That's why I stayed. And we’ve been thriving for five years now.”
Lazzara said he still applies the things he learned from working on his father’s farm in Sicily and driving a produce truck to his current business.
“The number one thing I learned is as long as you work hard, everything will come out fine,” Lazzara said. “Like driving a truck - you have to be at the warehouse at 2:30 a.m. As long as you’re busy, only good will come out of it.
“There’s a lot of old clichés – like the early bird gets worm – they’re all are true because hard work does pays off.”
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