Our story begins with Anthony and Celeste Lizio, who came to the United States in the early 1930’s from Sant’Angelo all’Esca – a small town an hour outside of Naples, Italy. Celeste (Luise) grew up in her mother’s café learning the recipes she would eventually hand down to her children and grandchildren. Once in the United States, Anthony and Celeste opened a small grocery store for Celeste to tend to while Anthony worked in a factory. While Celeste made dinner in the stores back kitchen, the delicious smells drew the WPA workers. The store became known for Celeste’s food rather than the groceries.
The popularity of Celeste’s recipes encouraged her and Anthony to open the Kedzie Beer Garden at Kedzie and Polk on the West Side of Chicago. As the business grew into a popular restaurant, the name was changed to Celeste’s as a tribute to the chef. And just as Celeste learned from her mother, their four children Emmanuel (Willy), Pasquale, Anthony Jr. and Clara learned from their parents working alongside while living above the restaurant.
In the 1950’s, the children – now adults – expanded the family business by selling their homemade products, such as ravioli, to other local restaurants and grocery stores. The wholesale business became so successful that in 1963 the family closed Celeste’s to concentrate solely on the supplier business. In 1969, the family sold the business to Quaker Oats who went on to create the Mama Celeste brand that everyone knows today.
Clara’s opened at 6740 S. Rt. 53 on March 13, 1987. Clara was in the kitchen, her husband Rudy Sr. at the bar and their four children (Michelle, Anthony, Rudy Jr. and Mark) learning the recipes and traditions just as their mother and grandmother before them. And just like her mother Celeste, people came from far and wide to enjoy Clara’s wonderful creations.
On November 19, 2013, Clara’s moved to its current location at 6550 S. Rt. 53, now under the watchful eye of the next generation. Rudy Jr, along with his wife Dawn and three children (Ersilia, Michael Anthony and Rudy III), carry on the traditions and recipes of Celeste and Clara.