CARBONDALE — Pagliai’s Pizza celebrated its 50th anniversary Friday night from 5 to 7 p.m., and many customers, friends and former employees came to celebrate.
Anniversaries are a good time for sharing memories, and Melissa Parsons, current owner of Pagliai’s, shared several panels of old photos and newspaper clippings about the restaurant. She had pictures of the older and new buildings, including a few black and white photos of the original footprint of the business. It had a slice window, and customers would line up along the sidewalk to purchase a slice.
She shared pictures and stories of the restaurant’s move to its current location, along with pictures of the expanded “old” location and its décor.
Today, Pag’s, as it is affectionately known, is run by Larry Anderson and Parsons, his daughter. Anderson and his wife, Connie, opened the restaurant in 1968 in Carbondale, but he was not new to the concept. He worked with his uncles in the pizza business during high school. After earning his college degree, Anderson worked with Sam and Armand Pagliai for two and a half years, learning their way of making pizza with their family recipes.
Everything served at Pagliai’s is made fresh at the restaurant each day, from the pizza dough to the sausage. Meat is ground and seasoned on site. Cheese is grated from a block, and sauce is cooked all day. Pizza is made behind a window, so customers can watch.
Customers and former Pagliai’s employees also had a few memories to share.
Larry and Rindy Eisenhauer decided to spend the evening celebrating their 22nd anniversary along with the 50th anniversary of their favorite pizza establishment.
“I’ve been coming since opening day,” Larry Eisenhauer said. “This is our second home.”
The couple also had their rehearsal dinner at Pagliai’s the night before their wedding.
“It all worked out really well,” Rindy Eisenhauer said.
Jennifer Sheehan worked at Pag’s in the early 1970s and said it was one of her first jobs.
“I’m glad it's still going on,” Sheehan said.
She added that she like working at the restaurant and made good tips. She also likes the pizza.
Lindy Loyd worked at Pag’s in 1975.
“When Shawn Colvin was here, she and I would work the same shift. We would play at the American Tap — Shawn in the big bar and me in the small one. Between customers, we would set up each other’s rep,” Loyd said.
She added that Colvin went on to music stardom.
Mayor Mike Henry called Pagliai’s a good asset to have in Carbondale. His wife Terri worked at Pagliai’s, and he had his first pizza at the restaurant.
“I worked at Dairy Queen, and Pag’s was my second job,” Terri Henry said. “People stood in line to get pizza.”
Connie and Larry Anderson also shared a few memories.
“It’s hard to believe. I enjoy what we’re doing,” Larry Anderson said.
Anderson noted that he fed police officers during the riots of the May 1970.
“You had to be there to realize what it was like. We had to take care of them — they were protecting our business,” Anderson said.
He said the best part of 50 years is meeting the people who came in and knowing they enjoy the product. They now have young people working at the restaurant whose parents worked at Pag’s.
“We’re glad it is continuing. Melissa is doing a wonderful job,” Larry Anderson said.
“Tonight is our way of showing our appreciation to Carbondale,” Connie Anderson said.
She also has enjoyed their customers, saying “a lot of them have been with us so long.”
On Friday nights, Connie, who has now retired, comes to the restaurant to have pizza with Larry.
“It’s been our Friday night pizza for 50 years,” she said.
Customers were treated to free cake and champagne during the celebration, along with specials on small cheese pizza and soda.
Pagliai’s Pizza is located at 509 S. Illinois Ave. in Carbondale.