My parents came to America in the early 1930's from a small town outside of Naples, Italy to start a new life for themselves. They opened a small grocery store in their neighborhood that my mother tended while my father managed a factory. During the Depression, while making dinner in the back kitchen, my mother would often feed many WPA workers out the back door. Her food became so popular that people would come for the food, not the groceries.
Around 1932, my parents opened the Kedzie Beer Garden at Kedzie and Polk on the West Side. The opening night is depicted in a mural hanging in the dining room at Rudi Fazuli's. My parents worked in their restaurant while raising four children in the apartment above. The popularity of the Kedzie Beer Garden grew and, in the early 1940's, was changed to the name Celeste's as a tribute to my mother. It became a true family business with the children working alongside our parents after school and during vacations. As we grew, we taught the family recipes just as Celeste learned them growing up in her parents' restaurant in Italy.
In the 1950's, the children, now adults, expanded our family business by selling their products to other local restaurants and grocery stores. That business became so large that in 1963 the family closed the restaurant to concentrate solely on the wholesale end. It was then that the famous Mama Celeste persona became popular for my mother.
After the family sold the line of food in 1969, my brothers and I all branched out into different-restaurant ventures. In 1987, my husband, Rudolph and I decided to open our own restaurant in Woodridge, Illinois, called Clara's Pasta di Casa.
When we first opened our restaurant, my children worked with me day and night to keep the restaurant up and running. Clara's Pasta is still, after 21 years, one of the most popular places in the Western Suburbs.