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Orazio's Turns 30!

Orazio's turns 30 this year, but bar's history goes back to the '30s

From The Naperville Sun:

Whether it was the Parkside Cafe, the Nickel Inn, JB Deucenburg's or, as it has been since 1987, Orazio's Pub, the corner bar by the train station at 333 N. Center St. has been a "nice little neighborhood tavern" since the late 1930s.

In the early 1940s, it was Ray Baumgartner's tavern. "Every morning the guys would go to work at Kroehler's at 7, and they'd stop by first for a shot and a beer before work and after work," said Ray's son, Ray Baumgartner Jr., 83. "It was an 'eye-opener' they called it." "Little Ray," as he used to be known, remembers being at the bar after the big train wreck, sitting next to the radio broadcaster sending news of the accident to listeners around the area. "My dad ran out of everything in the store in a couple hours that day, because so many people were coming to see the accident scene. I was standing next to the guy broadcasting on the radio, they were handing me the papers after they got done reading them." Ray was far from the only child at the neighborhood bar. Joe Modaff's dad knew big Ray, and used to stop in occasionally. "Whenever the kids were with him," Modaff said, "Ray would give us peanuts and orange pop and tell us to sit at the corner table."

Shortly after Baumgartner sold the place to Oscar Springborn, who named it Parkside, it burned down and was rebuilt. The former two-story tavern with three apartments above became a single-story tavern.

Bill Guy has been a fan of the bar since the early 1960s. He figures he was about 5 when he first came in with his dad. He grew up down the street, so the pair would walk there together back when Whitey Ziemian and Paul Freiburg — known to entertain on the organ and bass fiddle — owned the place.

A lot has changed since then, but the pub is much the same. Sure, the booths were taken out after the two plumbers sold to Bob Nicholas — he replaced them with the current round tables and renamed the place The Nickel Inn — and the video games now in the back sit where the bowling game used to be.

"But when I was a kid, the bar had the same top on it," said Guy, tapping the white formica with vintage gold faux-marbling where his beer waited. "The back bar cabinet was added by Egizios though."

At one point the bar was owned by Don and Elaine Rodesiler, and before the Egizios bought it, it was called JB Deucenburg's.

But in 1987 it was for sale, and Angelo Egizio, the former used car manager for Winston Chevrolet, had always dreamed of owning a tavern, said his son, Michael. So he bought it. (The bar's current name comes from Angelo's dad, Orazio, who immigrated from Italy in 1915 and owned a gas station/tavern in Joliet called Venice Tavern on the old Route 66.) Michael worked at the bar for the first eight months. "I hated every minute of it, but my dad always thought it was great. I left when my brother got out of the Marines and took over."

Angelo and his son Owen worked together "every morning for nearly 15 years. We had some great times cooking turkeys to give away on Thanksgiving Eve," Owen once wrote for the pub's website. "Angelo loved to see people enjoy his food."

Owen bought out his dad in 2000 and ran it until his death in 2012. His daughter Michelle took over.

"The customers, the employees are like family," she said. "The building is like a home to me. It's been the one constant thing in all of our lives — we've moved a lot and had a lot of houses. That's why my grandfather called it a 'pub' — it's more family oriented than a bar or a tavern. People bring their kids in, I bring my almost-2-year-old here. It's like Cheers, everyone knows everyone."

The "family" includes lifelong customer Guy and his bar-mates, former neighbors Francis and Daniel Munson. "We grew up in the next block — our dad came here, he had an office across the tracks," Fran said. Why do they spend so much time at the far corner end of the bar, right in front of the popcorn machine? "Because you always know someone when you come in," said Daniel.

Around 3:30 on weekdays, the commuters start filtering in.

"One customer who lives in Chicago says Orazio's is his favorite bar, he goes here before going home," said Michelle, who has worked at the bar for 17 years.

The pub hasn't lost the charm that made Angelo and Owen Egizio love it so.

As Owen wrote: "If you like good food, friendly people, and long for that timeless place where fast-paced society is left at the door, come and visit Orazio Pub. Angelo is no longer with us, but his love for food and people still are present. I invite you to a nice place to eat, drink, and spend time with your friends."
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