Lacopo's Pizzeria opened in July of 1989 in a brick storefront on the corner of Lincoln Way West and Ardmore Trail. Two siblings, Frank and Rita, are West Side lifers and operate the family-owned business.
Their father, Joseph Lacopo, was a staple in the world of South Bend pizza using recipes handed down through generations of their Southern Italian family. Frank and Rita aim to carry on this rich tradition, still making everything by hand.
One February evening I was drawn in by the warm glow of an awning reading: Lacopo's Pizzeria. Here's what I found:
After forty-five minutes in the restaurant one thing is clear – the Lacopo's love their customers. Each transaction begins with a warm welcome and lingers into friendly conversation. Rita goes as far to say that the customers are what keep her passionate about the work:
We just love our customers. We know most of them on a first name basis; some have been coming in since the day we opened.
Old industrial towns like South Bend rely on factories for more than direct jobs – they often catalyze a web of smaller businesses, one genre being restaurants. When asked about whether Lacopo's business is affected by shifts in the West End's economy, Rita struck a hopeful tone:
When we first opened, we had a huge lunchtime crowd with Allied Signal being open, Bosch was still over there, and there were some other local factories that have since gone out of business. So for a while there our lunches were not as good as when we first opened, but they are getting better because a lot of new factories are coming back.
We do the lunch special, pizza by the slice, which is really convenient because nowadays people don't have that much time for lunch.
Filling the space is decorum reserved for old family-owned businesses: school yearbook portraits, a classic cash register, and a fading poster of famed Italian footballer Roberto Baggio.
In an age when chain restaurants and new hipster spots make every attempt to co-opt this type of authenticity, it is invigorating to step into a business whose depth goes far beyond a visual aesthetic.