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Meet Frank Palazzolo of Nonna Marias Pizzeria & Ristorante

Today we’d like to introduce you to Frank Palazzolo.

Hi Frank, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I am an Illinois transplant. I have lived in Arizona for 25 years. My family owned a restaurant in Illinois. When both my parents passed away I was looking for a change. I was getting ready to move to Sicily, Italy, where I had gone to high school. I was fortunate enough to go to school in America & Sicily. I had a cousin going to school At the University of Arizona. My cousin encouraged me to visit him before I moved to Sicily. Well, I visited Arizona & fell in love. Arizona made me feel like I was in Sicily, yet still in America. Arizona was truly the best of both worlds! I choose Oracle because it was the polar opposite of Belvidere. Belvidere had a Jolly Green Giant factory, Chysler factory, & long winters. Oracle has wide open spaces, beautiful views, friendly people, and 1 day of snow a year yet all close proximity to the big city of Tucson. It also reminded me greatly of Cinisi, Sicily where my family is from. Weather, terrain, and mountain views all can be found in Sicily & Arizona.

I sold our family restaurant in Belvidere, Illinois & moved to Oracle, Az. With the help of my family, Nonna Marias Pizzeria & Ristorante was opened in 1997. We are proud to be celebrating our small business’s 25th year in Oracle.
I first started pop art paintings when I lived in Sicily. My move to the artist-filled town of Oracle inspired me to continue my love of painting. You will note that a majority of my paintings feature famous folks from a begone area enjoying pizza & pasta. Pizza & Pasta are my muses I paint what I see every day!

I began to participate in the Oracle Artist Studio Tour, and worked on some privately commissioned paintings, PMQ magazine (Pizza Marketing Quarterly) made one of my paintings the magazine cover! I have found that painting allows me to unwind after a busy day. Incorporating my two loves food & art truly fulfills me. The vibrant colors of my paintings my wife tells me are a reflection of my bright personality! During the pandemic, I took my artwork from the canvas to my sidewalk. I created uplifting messages & images on my restaurant sidewalk. You can find the videos on Facebook from 2020 of me creating the chalk art.

My family & I have created our restaurant to reflect my love of art, family, and Sicily. All the paintings on the wall were created by me. I also am the Chef at the restaurant. I am one of the few artists that you can actually taste art & as well as see it!!!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Of course, there are always challenges in running a small business. However, it is how you view a challenge. I don’t believe in struggles. This may be because both my parents were Italian immigrants. I was able to see how they came to a country with a different language, money system, and traditions, & flourish. You figure out ways how to make a challenge into a success.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Nonna Marias Pizzeria & Ristorante?
Nonna Marias Pizzeria & Ristorante was named after my grandma Maria. I have used her recipes to bring diners to Oracle since 1997. My family previously had restaurants in Illinois. I have been in the restaurant business since I was old enough to hold a coffee pot. That’s around 3 years old according to my mom! In Arizona, we started as a small take-out-only restaurant and expanded it to dine-in. We outgrew our original location & built a bigger location from the ground up. Watching our restaurant grow has been a true joy of mine. Being in the restaurant business my whole life I have learned one thing; without the guests, there is No business.

We truly appreciate & treasure everyone that chooses us for their, family meals, weddings, retirement parties, and all the big & little celebrations they share with us. We started with a limited menu of pizza only; pizza is our true 1st love. As we grew our menu has grown also to include your traditional Italian favorites. Our marinara sauce is a family recipe that I grew up with. As I was growing up I would watch my mom make marinara sauce. When the batch was ready she would place it in a cup for me to drink. I am still preparing that same sauce recipe 50 + years later. I love it hear guests try to guess the ingredients I use. Between the catering, dining in & carry out we have made many happy meal memories over the years!

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
Both my parents were Italian immigrants. I would help them in the restaurant. I thought all kids made pizza & talked two languages. I was fortunate to go to school in both Italy & America.

I didn’t appreciate that until I was older though. When I was young it would be difficult to go back & forth between the different teaching styles of the 2 countries. I believe that growing up in both countries expanded my view of how to solve problems, & get along with others.

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