Edward and Rose Marie Palanza established Palanza's in Sunnyland in 1957.
Fifty-seven years later, Chris, who is the third generation, his daughter, Angie the fourth, and Angie's daughter, Caitlyn Benedict, the fifth generation, are still going strong with the restaurant and opened a second location in June.
EAST PEORIA — Edward and Rose Marie Palanza established Palanza’s in Sunnyland in 1957.
Fifty-seven years later, Chris, who is the third generation, his daughter, Angie the fourth, and Angie’s daughter, Caitlyn Benedict, the fifth generation, are still going strong with the restaurant and opened a second location in June.
The idea for the second location began 10 years ago when Palanza and his daughter Angie Benedict discussed it.
“Then we just gave up on the idea for a long time,” Palanza said.
Palanza, 58, of Washington grew up working at his parent’s, Elmer and Irma’s, restaurant. His daughter followed suit when she began working there at age 11.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” Benedict said of the family business.
For six years, Benedict, 37, who also
lives in Washington, was an X-ray technician in addition to working at the restaurant. Then she decided she wanted to work at the family restaurant full-time instead.
“She wanted to work with me,” Chris Palanza said, adding that he enjoys working with his daughter.
“It keeps us together, too. When she was an X-ray tech I hardly ever saw her.”
Plus, Palanza said his daughter missed the customers as many have been regulars for years. One couple had their first date at Palanza’s and has now been married for 55 years.
“They still come in every week,” Palanza said.
Since there wasn’t enough for both father and daughter to do at their restaurant in Sunnyland, they decided to branch out.
The new Palanza’s opened June 28 at 400 Riverside Drive where Michael’s Italian Feast was formerly and near Office Max.
The new restaurant offers all of the same menu items as the existing business in Sunnyland, but breakfast and an express lunch have been added at the East Peoria location.
Breakfast items include all the traditional things like eggs, pancakes, omelettes and biscuits and gravy, but there are also things called “The Palanza” and “The Oops.” The first is a three egg omelet with much of the same ingredients one would find on a pizza, the thing Palanza’s is well-known for making. The latter is described as “We lost our minds and combined everything in this four egg omelet.”
Breakfast hours are from 6:30 a.m.-noon Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The express lunch features a pizza by the slice, a half order of pasta and sandwiches. Express lunch is available from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“We came up with a little menu for a quick lunch,” Palanza said. “We took everything that we could make off our menu, something we could get out fast to the customer.”
The rest of the menu includes appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pasta, chicken, ribs and of course, pizza. Some new lighter-style items, such as fish, turkey and vegetables have been added to the menu at both locations. Breakfast and the express lunch is only available at the East Peoria location.
Palanza said it took three months to renovate the new spot. Walls were taken out and constructed and then painted a Tuscan red with brick mixed throughout. There is seating for about 100. Palanza said they made their own table tops.
The focal point inside is a three-panel painting done by Palanza’s wife, Lilia. The painting is of Pallanza, Italy.
“I’m very proud of that painting, Palanza said.
Thirty more employees were hired to accommodate the new location.
Some of the regulars from the Sunnyland location are coming to check out the new place, but Palanza said they still consider the original restaurant “home.”
“Some of our East Peoria customers are loving it because it’s closer,” Benedict said.
One thing Benedict said they want to stress is that they are not closing the original restaurant.
Palanza and Benedict hop back and forth from their two restaurants. Benedict said she finds she is more busy now doing things she wasn’t before.
“There’s a lot of new stuff for me,” she said.
Feedback from customers has been positive at the new restaurant.
“They love the look,” Palanza said.
And the food is not different in any way between the two locations, Palanza said, as they rotate cooks between both restaurants.
The same dough and sauce recipe that Palanza’s grandfather created has not changed since 1957.
“I can’t change the sauce now. I’d have to leave town,” Palanza said.
Keeping the same made from scratch recipes constant is the most important thing Benedict said her father taught her.
“You can’t change anything as far as our recipes go. If there’s anything he ever taught me, it’s do not change anything, not even a hair because people come because it always tastes the same and it always has. That’s how we got our business and that’s how we kept our business,” Benedict said.
Palanza said there are some customers who live out of state that he sees every Christmas.
“They say, ‘I’ve got to have Palanza’s,’ so they know what it’s going to taste like before they walk through that door.”
Recently, Palanza’s aunt visited the new restaurant and gave her opinion, which he related.
“She said, ‘Looking at this I think your dad and grandfather would be very proud of you,’” he said.
The hours at the East Peoria Palanza’s are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Carry-out and business delivery are available at the East Peoria location. To reach the East Peoria Palanza’s, call 694-2364.