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Try topping this: Blue Island pizzeria marks 50 years

Frank Podbielniak 76 opened Frank's Pizz50 years ago. The family business is celebrating milestone this year.  |  Nick

Frank Podbielniak, 76, opened Frank's Pizza 50 years ago. The family business is celebrating the milestone this year. | Nick Swedberg/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 18, 2014 6:08AM



Some things never change.

For Frank Podbielniak, that means he has kept the recipe for his pizza sauce unchanged since Lyndon B. Johnson was president. It means using the same vendor for all of his pizza ingredients for decades.

There’s been a payoff: Frank’s Pizza, a family-run pizzeria and bar on Western Avenue in Blue Island, is celebrating 50 years in business.

Podbielniak, 76, whose day job for 30 years was making cylinder heads at Allis-Chalmers, kept one goal in mind all those years.

“I wanted my kids to have an education,” Podbielniak said.

Podbielniak has seen the area around his business change over the years. When he first started as a pizza cook in 1964, that stretch of Western Avenue wasn’t all developed. Podbielniak and his family ran the business out of a store just a block down and across the street from its current location at 14331 Western Ave.

For about three months, Podbielniak worked for another pizza restaurant. His only compensation came once a week in the form of a free pizza.

When that operation went south, Podbielniak modified the recipes he had come to know well in his three months working for someone else and started his own business with his brother-in-law.

In the mid-1970s, Podbielniak made the big move to add a bar to the operation. At the time, merging a bar with a pizza joint was uncommon, he said.

“By incorporating the two, I thought I could do a little better,” Podbielniak said.

The “little better” Podbielniak did was enough to put his six children through Catholic schools.

He knows he could have expanded in the three decades since opening the bar location. But the word “regret” never crosses his lips.

“I’m not crying about it,” Podbielniak said.

Joe Podbielniak, the younger of Frank Podbielniak’s two sons, took over running the business about 20 years ago after his father developed health problems. He still uses the same recipes for the pizza that customers have come to expect for decades.

“I take a lot of pride in it,” Joe Podbielniak said. “It’s not something you can take haphazardly.”

The establishment also has outdoor activities in the summer.

Everyone in the Podbielniak family has helped with the business at one time or another.

Mary Anne Jackson, the oldest of the four daughters, remembers when she was 5 and her dad sat her on a bar stool to teach her how to make a pizza.

Beyond working hard for his family over the years, her father has made a name for himself in the community and is respected for it, she said.

“This is my dad’s legacy,” Jackson said.



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