Peter Fasano may be the hardest working guy in the pie business. But it's in his blood.
If his name sounds familiar, it's because Fasano Pies was a huge, national pie distributor based in Chicago's Bedford Park back in the day. His grandfather, Joseph, started the company in 1946, and it was family operated until 1986.
The company became legendary among the locals, who still talk about their Fasano pie memories. Eighteen months ago, he decided to take those same recipes and re-launch the company under the name, Pies by Fasano. Just last week, Fasano announced a partnership with Mariano's Fresh Market.
He spend last Sunday evening, Sept. 8, at the Elmhurst Mariano's.
"Mariano's is carrying my product, it's my son's birthday and we're celebrating," Fasano said Sunday afternoon, while selling pies out of his van at Brother Rice High School in Chicago.
Fasano rarely takes a break.
"I work seven days a week, but it's no big deal," he said.
His company is based in Downers Grove, where he has lived for 12 years. He doesn't have a storefront yet, but that's the goal. In the meantime, he services stores and restaurants from his warehouse/bakery.
Bob Mariano, CEO of Roundy's, which supplies all of the Mariano's locations, may remember Fasano from the old days.
"Bob Mariano used to be with Dominick's, and they used to do a ton of business with Fasano in the old days," Fasano said. "Semis-full per week. Dominick's, Jewel, we were in every grocery store in the United States, and we were in every restaurant in Chicago, without a doubt. We had 90-plus trucks that went out on the street six days a week."
But Mariano is known for being very particular about the products he sells, so his past position at Dominick's probably had little to do with his stores adding Fasano pies. The pies speak for themselves, Fasano said. That's why they also are being sold at Casey's in Naperville; Brookhaven stores in Darien, Burr Ridge and Mokena; Devries Market in La Grange, "and then I'm in a bunch of little mom and pop restaurants," he said.
"Mariano's is going to be doing apple, blueberry and cherry in 9-inch and individual 4-inch pies," Fasano said. He also sells cream pies, like banana, strawberry, coconut and chocolate cream, at other locations.
The recipes are the same as his father and grandfather used, Fasano said. He remembers what it was like in the heyday of his family's pie business.
"We used to have a store on 65th Street and police would have to direct traffic there because it was so busy," he said. "It was insane.
"I still have people coming up to my truck and in stores and they're crying (over their Fasano pie memories)."
He was only 21 years old when the company went out of business. He went on to do other things, including working at the Chicago Board of Trade, but the pies were always calling. He gets a lot of advice about the business from his 86-year-old father, Joseph Fasano Jr., who took over Fasano Pies from Peter's grandfather.
"I talk to him 20 times a day sometimes," Peter said. "There is no other person in the United States that ever sold any more pies than he did. He sold hundreds of millions of pies—without exaggeration."
What is his advice for his son as he revives the family business?
"You've got to work hard. But No. 1 is you have to have a quality product from start to finish," he said.
He plans to grow the business "exponentially," but he's not going to rush it.
"I'm just taking it one week at a time," he said. "I'm going to nourish Mariano's for awhile and make sure this goes properly.
"I'm grateful that a store of Mariano's quality would choose me as a pie vendor. It's unbelievable how much people like Mariano's."