Connie’s Beef is at home in Elmwood Park
John Scalzitti packs up a sandwich order for a customer Dec. 8 at Connie's Beef in Elmwood Park. Scalzitti, who worked in the restaurant for his father while he was in high school, said Elmwood Park is his ideal location. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Med
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:43AM
ELMWOOD PARK — Connie’s Beef has been in the Scalzitti family for years, but when things became tough financially, John Scalzitti went back to what he knew best.
The 52-year-old has been running Connie’s Beef, 7501 W. Grand Ave. in Elmwood Park, for about four years after a 12-year hiatus from the restaurant business in the 1990s. Scalzitti worked in the family restaurant for years, which included two location changes, but he eventually decided that he wanted to follow his own path.
He worked as a clerk at Arlington Park Racetrack while also opening his own home-rehab business. If the real estate market had remained strong he would have never looked back, Scalzitti admits, but the economy and his wife motivated him to get back into the restaurant business.
He explained that starting Connie’s Beef back up again was the simplest solution.
“It’s what I know, so that’s why I’m here,” Scalzitti said.
He said running a restaurant isn’t for everybody, but being an Elmwood Park native, he was confident he had a strong, loyal customer base.
“It’s a lot of work,” Scalzitti said. “We do pretty good here. We were well known in the area so I figured at least I’d have a good start.”
His business is well known for its Italian beef and Italian sausage sandwiches, as well as the hamburgers and grilled polish sausages.
“The hamburgers, they go really well, and the meatball sandwiches,” he said.
There’s plenty of space for people to sit and eat inside, or orders can be placed at the drive-thru.
Scalzitti reported that the drive-thru and catering portion of the business is popular and makes up half his business.
“I’ve done a lot of it (catering) this time of year,” he said.
He’s also grateful for a good staff.
Robert Solis, who is the cook at the restaurant, said he was having a hard time finding a job, until he met Scalzitti.
“He’s the only one who gave me an opportunity,” Solis said. “He’s a great boss.”
Milly Rodriguez, who works the cash register and the drive-thru window, said she enjoys working at Connie’s. She also is a fan of the food.
“I’m not just saying that because I work here,” she said. “I was addicted to it.
“I like it here,” Rodriguez added. “It’s like family here. We get the same customers all of the time.”
Chicago resident Nicole Halim, 28, works not to far from the restaurant so she stops in about twice a week for the salads.
“The grilled chicken (salad) is really good and it’s really fresh,” she said.
Scalzitti said it’s all about being consistent with the food, and being good to the customers.
He also believes location plays a part as well, and says the village is a great place to run a business.
“I think it’s a great town for business and people support your business,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t have opened the business up if it wasn’t in Elmwood Park.”