An array of dishes from Spizzico and Senor Jefe in Elmwood Park
All in the family: Rochelle and Rocco Spizzirri show off a signature Spizzico pizza. Rochelle is learning the family business from top to bottom.

Elmwood Park is known for serving up a bevy of authentic Italian meals, and Spizzico Pizza and Pasta, 7446 W. North Ave, has been bringing Italian favorites like house made pizza, pasta and baked clams to hungry restaurant goers for more than a quarter of a century.

“We’ve been in business for 26 years,” said Rocco Spizzirri, owner of Spizzico. “I honestly love everything on the menu and couldn’t pick a favorite.”

Spizzirri’s father bought the Elmwood Park location in 1995 and took a year to transform the former laundromat into a functional restaurant. Thanks to a generational family history of restaurant ownership, Spizzirri’s younger brother Tito Jr., saw the value in restaurant ownership and left a career in accounting to take over Spizzico.

After Tito died in 2015 his wife, Linda, took over the restaurant and expanded it to include Senor Jefe, the Mexican restaurant around the corner that shares a kitchen with Spizzico. With Linda’s blessing and support, Spizzirri took over ownership of the Restaurant Row mainstay in May of 2021.

“We wanted to keep the restaurant in the family, but this is my first time owning a restaurant and honestly I expected it to be easier than it is,” said Spizzirri honestly. “It is more difficult work than I expected it to be, but fortunately it is working with the help of family.”

Honoring the family history of restaurant ownership and keeping Tito’s legacy alive are at the forefront of every decision Spizzirri makes. His daughter, Rochelle, has shown interest in the business and the team, including several extended family members, continues to serve the Italian fare based on his mother’s signature home-style recipes.

“Basically, our local government will bend over backwards to help restaurants succeed.”

Rocco Spizzirri

Baked clams with breadcrumbs and crispy calamari set the stage for an array of entrees including pastas, sandwiches and pizza. Nothing is premade at Spizzico—even the pizza dough is freshly made every morning. House-made sauces keep customers coming back for that signature Spizzico flavor. Spizzico is now serving “pizza rolls” inspired by a recipe created by Spizzirri’s uncle. Similar to a calzone, the pizza roll features a gently folded soft crust encapsulating an array of popular pizza toppings.

“We are definitely known for our pizza,” said Spizzirri proudly. “But people are always surprised by our ribs. People don’t expect them to be as good as they are, but we learned our recipe from a real southern chef.”

Ribs are not the only Spizzico surprise–Senor Jefe came about because the Spizzirri and his brothers wanted customers to be able to satisfy dual cravings in one location.

“We wanted people to be able to get a pizza and a burrito at the same time,” laughed Spizzirri. “And thanks to that idea we have been combining Italian and Mexican favorite on one ticket.”

Graciela Rodriguez and Valente Gracia have worked in the Spizzico kitchens for 16 years and have been churning out Mexican favorites like hand-made pork tamales, fajitas and flautas since Senor Jefe opened nearly six years ago. The model makes is simple to have tacos with your next pizza.

Spizzirri is especially pleased that catering gigs and volume sales have been steadily growing for the food-focused business.  Spizzico and Senor Jefe have the capacity to handle everything from intimate dinner parties to events catering to thousands of guests at local schools, hospitals and festivals.

No matter if people are looking for a catered event for hundreds, boxed lunched for students, a bounty of burritos or a single bowl of pasta, Spizzirri is eager to treat every customer like family and wants people to know Spizzico endures on North Ave because of their supportive community and loyal customers.

Kitchen Staff: Graciela Rodriguez (left) and Valente Gracia flank Rocco Spizzirri in the kitchen and Spizzico/Senor Jefe. The cooks bring 16 years of experience to the Elmwood Park restaurant.

“The support we get from the Village of Elmwood Park is just outstanding,” said Spizzirri. “Basically, our local government will bend over backwards to help restaurants succeed. That means everything to us.”

That community support is priceless to Spizzirri and his family as they persevere in hopes of leaving the Spizzico legacy, sauce and all, for the next generation.

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