EDGEWATER — The neighborhood's favorite pizza chef hits a big milestone Friday.
Peggy Gelsomino, who's been slinging pies at Gino's North on Granville Avenue for decades, turns 85.
"I may be the owner, but she's the real boss," said Steve Kilian, who took over the bar and restaurant eight years ago. "It's more than just a job for her. This is her life, you know."
In fact, Gelsomino said she's witnessed "three or four" owners come and go through the doors at 1111 W. Granville Ave.
"I make the dough, I make the sauce, I make every pizza. ... I'm always right there," she said, looking back toward the small kitchen. "Isn't it tiny? You get a big guy back here and you're in trouble."
Gelsomino's career at Gino's (no relation to Gino's East) began after her husband died in 1992.
The bar and pizzeria was looking for a cook, so she applied.
"I felt I needed something," she said. "I just didn't want to stay home."
It wasn't the first time she worked a restaurant. Until 1981, she and her husband and their two sons ran a barbecue place, called Big Pit, at Clark and Howard streets in Rogers Park.
Originally, she wanted to work just part time. But as business fluctuated, and owners came and went, "it never turned out that way," she said.
Now she works five days a week, from 4-11 p.m., sometimes later. Although she loves the pizza, she admits she doesn't eat it much anymore.
She said customers from years ago, who might have moved away from Edgewater, come back to Gino's just to see the star cook, saying, "Oh my God, Peggy, you're still here?"
To which she responds, she said, "I'm still here!"
And the life-long Chicagoan doesn't want it any other way.
"Right now my health is good, and I feel great," she said. "I've had a wonderful life."
Friends of Peggy and Gino's are throwing her a birthday party on Sunday. The public is invited to attend the celebration, which begins at 2 p.m.
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