Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Agatucci's - Peoria Illinois

Agatucci's is one of the oldest restaurants in Peoria. Vincenzo Agatucci left his own town of Calascio in Italy in 1904. After working in the Coal Mines, he opened a small grocery store on 2nd Street around 1920. In 1926 he bought the existing building on a small dirt road the furthest point North of Peoria.

During the depression he turned the grocery store into a restaurant to better serve the community, and following prohibition, he purchased a liquor licence (No 13), and it is the oldest liquor licence in Peoria. After the Second World War the family started to make Pizza's as the returning soldiers all wanted Pizza when they returned.

We went with Carl and Mike, and were introduced to Danny and Tony the current owners. They were great, and showed us where the underground room was; that was used during the prohibition period for drinking. Alas we could not go into the room as they have tiled over the entrance, and have placed a booth there as well.

We had their Pizza with Italian Beer. It was just great the beer was light and very refreshing, and the Pizza was a thin crust with lashings of cheese and fresh ingredients. Just a delight.

Tony then told us about a recent attempted armed robbery at the restaurant.

"At first I thought, 'what is this, a joke or something?'" Dan Agatucci, co-owner of the restaurant said. "But then I turned around and saw him in the mask."

Co-owners Dan Agatucci and cousin Tony Agatucci were closing up behind the bar.
That's when the pistol-toting robber ordered the pair to hand over cash. Tony Agatucci had locked the safe and was buying time by telling Scott he didn't know the combination. As the gunman kept his gaze and weapon trained in that direction, Dan Agatucci calmly grabbed a gun kept in the restaurant.

As loudly as he could, Dan Agatucci screamed at the gunman, "freeze!" The intruder panicked and ran out of the front door.

"I don't know if he thought there was an officer in the back or what," Dan Agatucci said.
Dan Agatucci chased the suspect out the door and fired a shot into the air to warn pedestrians that there was a man with a gun. Tony Agatucci grabbed a gun and ran after the gunman, as did his father, Jim Agatucci, who runs the kitchen. They chased him west on West Gift Avenue, firing several shots.

Dan Agatucci said police "came out of nowhere" and made an arrest near robbers home. The entire matter did not last much longer than a minute.

What a story, and what an evening. A well deserved 10 out of 10. We will visit Agatucci's again.

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