Jim and Pete’s, 7806 W. North Ave. in Elmwood Park, has been connecting with the community by serving old-world Italian dishes with a modern twist in a welcoming environment for 80 years.
Michael Bucchianeri worked as a busboy at Jim and Pete’s as a teenager and subsequently filled every role imaginable at the restaurant before taking an ownership role in 1999, but nothing could have prepared him for the avalanche of gratitude the devoted owner is currently experiencing.
Bucchianeri has been fiercely committed to honoring the legacy of the restaurant established in 1941 by expanding on the shared vision of former owners Jim Sorce Jr. and Vito Brunetti. While the global pandemic put a pause on celebrating Jim and Pete’s 80th anniversary, Bucchianeri is grateful his creative thinking, loyal staff and devoted customers have helped the Restaurant Row mainstay thrive during challenging times.
“We have been busy, and we are all thankful for that,” said Bucchianeri. “Our customers stood by us through all of this, and we have committed team members who have helped us survive. We have been stretched thin at times, but we all stuck together like family.”
At a time when it may have been easier for some staff members to stay home, they organized their personal lives to prioritize the restaurant. Bucchianeri knows Jim and Pete’s would not have made it through difficult days without their selflessness and dedication. A core group of 20 team members carried the restaurant through the past year and, despite staffing shortages, continue to offer the friendly and accommodating service synonymous with Jim and Pete’s.
Creative space solutions were also a saving grace for the North Avenue eatery. The enthusiastic owner completed an extensive remodel of Jim and Pete’s in 2017 that not only made the well-appointed restaurant a stand-out in Elmwood Park, but also ensured the eatery was practically pandemic proof.
Jim and Pete’s added an outdoor tent and curbside tables, but Bucchianeri credits the three season “plus” patio for maintaining Jim and Pete’s capacity despite state-wide indoor dining restrictions.
“My staff thinks I am a wizard for building this room, but it turns out we have the tools here to help us make it through a pandemic,” laughed Bucchianeri. “In the wintertime there would be snow on the boxwoods, but the room was so warm that we could open the roof to see the stars.”
Other restaurant owners have approached Bucchianeri to learn more about Jim and Pete’s state-of-the art party room suitable for hosting an array of special occasion events. Longtime staff initially questioned the sizable investment, but now the room serves as a flexible indoor/outdoor space used year-round for small weddings, rehearsal dinners, business meetings and charitable events. The fireplace pumps 500,000 BTUs of heat into the room keeping the patio warm and toasty on chilly days.
The unique room was designed with customer comfort in mind and helped sustain Jim and Pete’s through the pandemic and even brought a bevy of new customers to the restaurant. Most importantly, the room is used to connect with the community.
Throughout the pandemic Bucchianeri has been appreciative of all the patient customers who supported Jim and Pete’s and tipped so generously that it made a daily difference in the lives of his hard-working staff members. He is continuously thankful for the support the Village of Elmwood Park shows to local restaurants and knows he is fortunate to have 80 years of experience to help propel his restaurant forward.
Filled with gratitude, Bucchianeri anticipates a bright future for Jim and Pete’s in Elmwood Park.