MOUNT GREENWOOD — When times got tough, Peter Fasano made pie.
Pie is in Fasano's blood. His grandfather started the Fasano Pie Co. in 1947, bringing his father and uncle into the Chicago area business almost immediately.
Sales increased rapidly, with the company supplying grocery stores, cafeterias, restaurants and even prisons with Fasano Pies. At one point, the company's plant just outside of Chicago in suburban Bedford Park was churning out upwards of 10,000 pies per hour every day, nonstop, Fasano said.
"We were one of the largest pie manufacturers in the country and certainly in the Chicago area," he said.
Then — like a pie in the face — a series of financial disasters tore the business apart. Fasano declined to provide details, saying only that the company folded quickly, leaving customers to wonder what happened.
Peter Fasano was working at the Chicago Board of Trade at the time. He continued to work there until 2005 when his own financial disaster hit. He struggled as a day trader until walking away completely in 2009.
"I'm starting to think what should I do for the rest of my life. So I started baking pies in my kitchen," Fasano said.
After perfecting a handful of his family's recipes, he loaded the pies into his truck and began to sell them. The result has been the quiet comeback of the once-beloved company.
Fasano Pies are again available in 36 stores and restaurants. The company landed its biggest customer to date in September when the Mariano's grocery chain made space for the pies on its shelves. Mariano's has Chicago stores in Jefferson Park, Roscoe Village and three outlets downtown. The chain also has eight suburban stores.
Fasano also continues to sell pies from his truck. The custom vehicle is designed to haul 200 pies. He's been parking at Brother Rice High School in Mount Greenwood from 9 a.m. to noon every Sunday for the last 11 months. He typically returns home having sold out and will make a special appearance on Thanksgiving.
Patrick Flynn of suburban Evergreen Park used to buy Fasano Pies in the Brother Rice cafeteria when he was a student, beginning in 1963. He takes a 3-mile walk every Sunday morning and usually rewards himself with a Fasano Pie at the end.
"I like the blueberry," Flynn said.
The pie maker is adding a second truck in February. Peter Fasano Jr. will cruise the streets of Downtown Chicago, hoping Fasano Pies will find a place in the city's burgeoning food truck scene.
Individual-sized pies are $3 each, or four for $10. Whole fruit pies are $16, and cream pies are $17. Apple remains the most popular variety, but customers of the original pie company often request Fasano's strawberry-banana cream pie and the pineapple cheese pie.
Fasano works with a bakery in suburban Bloomingdale to produce the pies. He'd like to open his own bakery, but the right opportunity hasn't surfaced, Fasano said.
Wayne Anderson of suburban Evergreen Park discovered Fasano Pies by chance driving past Brother Rice. Coconut cream pie is his favorite, and he's already placed his order for Thanksgiving.
"These are the best pies around," Anderson said.