"I was extremely upset," remembers Carlo Buonavolanto
, the eldest of the six Buonavolanto siblings."One of my brothers got hurt, and it was devastating to have this happen so soon after we opened.We could easily have given up at that point."
But the Buonavolantos did not give up, and 23 years later that tiny eatery has mushroomed into Buona Beef Inc.
, a family-owned business specializing in Italian beef sandwiches that is raking in $30 million in sales a year. Buona Beef
now has restaurants in Chicago, Oak Park, Lombard, Naperville, Glendale Heights, Hoffman Estates, Hanover Park, Rolling Meadows, Downers Grove and Hillside.
..."It was my parents' dream for the family to have our own business, and even though we were young, we were as serious about it as my parents were," explains Carlo Buonavolanto, now the company president.
"We all worked equally hard - two generations working together." Buonavolanto
and his brothers, John, Joe Jr., Jim and Don, as well as brother-in-law Tony Pontillo, run the business from its headquarters in Berwyn, just across the street from the first Buona Beef
"We see what we do as bringing people together to share food together," Carlo Buonavolanto
adds."We have a passion for the quality of our food and a passion for being family-friendly."
Of course, it's not always easy to be around family all the time, even for the Buonavolantos.
"We've had our disagreements, like everybody else," Carlo Buonavolanto
says."But our parents raised us to love each other and respect each other, and we try to make decisions for the family, and not just for money or for business." The Buonavolantos'
Italian beef concept has been so successful that the company now ships beef around the United States, mostly to former Chicagoans.The Buonavolanto brothers trade stories of traveling to other cities and running into such transplants, who jump at the chance to get authentic Chicago Italian beef sent to them.