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Lifers: Peggy Gelsomino, Gino's North Pizza Maker For More Than 33 Years

Photos: Marc Much

It's not very often that you get a chance to eat pizza made by 85-year-old hands. But that's exactly what you can do five days a week at Gino's North (no relation to Gino's East) in Edgewater, as Peggy Gelsomino has been shaping pies in the back since the early 80's, and for 25 years before that at a different restaurant on Howard Street.

Peggy talked about her time making pizzas, why she's been doing it for more than 50 years, and more.

What are your days like?
I'm kind of like the chef, I've been here and I kind of coast a little bit, but mostly I'm here in the kitchen. I make all of the dough and the sauce and stuff like that. I'm kind of the manager of the kitchen. I work five days a week from 4 p.m. until about 10 or 11 p.m.

Have you made the same style of pizza the entire time?
Yes, I have. (It's) the same pizza that I used to make at the restaurant my husband and I used to own up around Howard and Clark. I brought the recipe here.

Has the menu changed over the years?
The menu changed a little bit here and there, but the pizza sauce never changed. I kept the same recipe for that.

How about the customers?
We've had some very good customers. People have come for many years and say, "Oh my gosh, you're still here!" The customers haven't changed that much, but we get a lot of new, friendly young people too. So it's always a little refreshing to have something like that.

What do you think of the pizza at other restaurants? Do you go to many?
Not really, when you work around pizza as much as I have. But I do enjoy some here and there and hey, their pizza is good too. But I'm here, people love my pizza, so there must be something I'm doing right.

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After all of these years, what has kept you making pizza?
It's meeting the people. I enjoy my job and it keeps me going. It keeps my morale up and I look forward to coming to work and seeing my customers and making the pizza. It makes them happy so it makes me happy. They always compliment me, so what more can I say?

What do people say to you?
"Oh my gosh, Peggy, the pizza was wonderful." I have won a couple of little awards. I won the sweetheart of this community, of Edgewater. I was in the paper. That makes me happy, I'm a star in myself.

Can you imagine doing any other job?
I've enjoyed the restaurant, but if I knew then what I know now, I'd love to have been a nurse because I like helping people and I enjoy being around people. I think people feel the same way.

How has pizza changed around Chicago since you started?
I've seen it all change. I've watched TV shows where they change how the pizza is made, but I stick to my own way of making pizza, my own style. I like my style, I make a deep dish and a thin crust and I sell a lot of it. I'm even getting busy right now, I actually have to make two.

How much longer do you think you'll be making pizza for?
I don't usually think about that, I take one day at a time. My health is well, so as long as I got that and I have the courage and it's what I still like to do, I'll keep doing it.
· All Pizza Week 2014 Coverage [-ECHI-]
· Gino's North [Official Site]

Gino's North

1111 W. Granville Ave., Chicago, IL

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