CICERO – Longtime customers returned to Albano's Pizzeria on Friday as the restaurant reopened eight days after beloved owner Giovanni "John" Donancricchia was fatally shot June 20 during an attempted robbery.
Ordering their favorite pizza or beef sandwich might have been a secondary motivation for this particular visit.
"The traditional customers, it could be why they're coming back is they like the food and have their favorites, but it was out of respect for John having served them for so long to come in and express their support," said Bill Fleischer, son-in-law of Donancricchia and his wife Angelia.
Fleischer is not an employee of the pizzeria, but he was working at the restaurant Saturday. He said all members of the Donancricchia family were taking hours at the restaurant outside of their regular jobs to help in this transition period.
That strong sense of family extended beyond the immediate relatives and served as part of the motivation for reopening a week after the tragedy.
"The motivating factor was that it's what Angie wanted, to get the restaurant open for John's sake and the importance of that for him. And it was important to stay open and not be down for a long time, which would ultimately affect the workers and their families," Fleischer said.
Suspect faces charges
A 25-year-old Chicago man has been charged with three counts of murder. Matthew A. Brown-Turner, 25, was also charged with one count of armed robbery.
According to police, Turner walked into Albano's, 5912 W. Roosevelt Road, at about 12:30 a.m. June 20, with a revolver and approached Angelia Donancricchia, wife of the slain owner, who was at the register. The restaurant was closed for the evening.
Giovanni Donancricchia saw Turner enter the business through an open back door and followed him to the counter area where Turner confronted his wife. Donancricchia entered through a swinging door and physically confronted Turner, giving his wife time to escape from the area. Donancricchia followed her out, but then turned to confront Turner again and was shot once in the chest.
Turner then fled the business on foot southbound through the alley, police said.
Police said that same night, a witness came forward and advised that a person said he was involved in the murder and gave detectives the name and address of the offender.
Detectives, tactical officers and patrol officers proceeded to that address where a surveillance was set up. At approximately 2 a.m.,Turner showed up and was taken into custody. During subsequent interviews, Turner made statements implicating himself in the attempted robbery and the murder, police said.
Police Superintendent Bernard Harrison said investigators began working feverishly as soon as they arrived at the crime scene, collecting evidence and fingerprints and reviewing video security tapes.
Owner remembered as good boss, hard worker
By all accounts, Giovanni Donancricchia was a stand-up guy; liked by his employees at Albano's Restaurant in Cicero, his customers and those neighbors who did little more than exchange greetings in the early morning when he arrived to work.
On the afternoon of June 20, a handmade, freshly painted memorial bearing his name, was placed at the front door of the restaurant.
Thursday afternoon, people started showing up; some who had already heard about the killing, others confused at the paper signs hastily put up in the windows announcing the restaurant was, "Closed until further notice."