Rich Matokar, who opened his first Arrenello’s 50 years ago in Glenwood, stands inside the Tinley Park location. (Photo by Bob Bong)

Rich Matokar, who opened his first Arrenello’s 50 years ago in Glenwood, stands inside the Tinley Park location. (Photo by Bob Bong)

Arrenello’s Pizza celebrates 50 years

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By Bob Bong

Fifty years ago, Rich Matokar had to choose between buying a house or opening a business.

He chose to quit his job at U.S. Steel South Works and open Arrenello’s Pizza in Glenwood and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I did it on a whim,” he said. “A friend was opening a flower shop in Glenwood and said I should open a pizza parlor in the same plaza. My father-in-law and I did the build out and we opened on November 24, 1972.”

Twenty years later, he opened a second Arrenello’s Pizza in Highland, Ind.

“I wanted to see if I could do it again,” he said. “We had a lot of customers from northwest Indiana and they asked us to open in Indiana.”

Twelve years later, he opened a third location in Tinley Park.

Arrenello’s is definitely a family business. Matokar runs the Tinley location. His wife, daughter, son and grandson run the Highland and Glenwood locations.

He attributes half-a-century of success to his pizza and work ethic.

“We were voted the second best stuffed pizza by the Tribune in 1992 and people love our sweet sauce,” he said. “It also took a lot of luck and hard work. The first seven or eight years, I never took a day off. I still have the old values.”

“We created our identity by being there all the time,” he said.

Matokar, 77, did a lot of running to get the business started as well as running for fun when he was younger.

“I ran in 14 marathons before my knees gave out,” he said. “I used to run all over. I ran in the New York Marathon, the LA Marathon. I qualified for the Boston Marathon. I loved running.”

His running days are long over – he’s had two knee replacements – but he has no intention of giving up the business he has helped nurture for five decades.

Arrenello’s menu offers pasta, chicken, ribs and sandwiches, but is well-known for its pizza.

How many pizzas in 50 years?

“I stopped counting at 3 million,” Matokar said with a laugh.

Arrenello’s is located at 325 E. Glenwood-Lansing Road in Glenwood. For hours and information, call 708-758-6160. Their website is arrenellos.com.

In Highland, the pizza parlor is at 2556 45th Street in Brumm’s Plaza. For information, call 219-924-2525.

The Tinley Park location is at 9420 W. 179th Street. For information, call 708-532-2424.

The restaurants offer delivery and carryout.

 

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