ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. — A Glen Rock pizza maker never dreamed of opening a shop in Elmwood Park, but once he got a taste for the business at 17, he started saving his dough.
Adam Vuksanic is co-owner of Francesca Pizza and Pasta in Elmwood Park, along with founder Salvatore Reina of Fair Lawn. Reina opened Francesca Pizza and Pasta in Glen Rock with his brother Gino in 2008.
Vuksanic, 26, started working for the brothers soon after they opened when he was still a student at Glen Rock High School.
“I loved the entrepreneurial aspects and seeing the business grow from day one. It went from a little busy to nuts every day,” the 2009 GRHS graduate said.
He started at the counter and learned all aspects of the business.
After studying at Bergen Community College, Vuksanic graduated from New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education in 2014.
He then interned at Bottagra Italian Restaurant in Hawthorne while still working at Francesca’s, saving money for his own place. He and Salvatore started talking about opening a business together.
At some point, it was decided that Francesa’s second location would be Vuksanic’s stepping as both entrepreneur and head chef.
A food purveyor knew the two wanted to open a business together and mentioned that Angelo’s Italian Kitchen in Elmwood Park was up for sale.
“They had a good reputation and customer base. It seemed like a good opportunity,” Vuksanic said.
Angelo was changed to the original Glen Rock name of Francesca — after Salvatore and Gino’s grandmother in Italy — and the menu revamped to mirror what’s been a success for almost nine years in Glen Rock.
“Everything we make is homemade using original and family recipes -- except the chicken nuggets and French fries. We make the bread we use for the panini. We make our own rice balls and mozzarella sticks,” he said.
Growing up in Glen Rock, Vuksanic frequently knew his customers at the original Francesca’s, especially as the business became more embedded in the community through fundraisers and other outreach.
It’s something he wants to model in Elmwood Park, a community where he’s just getting to know folks. Since opening in September, the small, informal eatery has held about a dozen fundraisers.
“Everyone has been positive and really welcoming. We’ve been involved with a number of local fundraisers, for all sports teams in the high school, the crew team, the American Heart Association, breast cancer. It’s important,” he said.
Starting in February, the Elmwood Park location will be open seven days a week; it’s presently closed on Sunday.
To kick off the Super Bowl (Patriots vs. Falcons, 6:30 p.m. EST) on Sunday, Feb. 5, Francesca’s Elmwood Park is offering a special menu featuring super-sized meal packs.
- First Down Pack costs $65 and serves 4-6 people. It features a one and a half-foot hero, 24 wings, one and a half-pounds macaroni salad and choice of 12 mozzarella sticks or chicken fingers.
- Field Goal Pack costs $105 and serves 8-12 people. It features a three-foot hero, 36 wings, two pounds of macaroni salad and choice of 30 mozzarella sticks or chicken fingers.
- Touchdown Pack costs $195 and serves 16-20 people. It features a six-foot hero, 72 wings, three pounds of macaroni salad, 24 mozzarella sticks and 24 chicken fingers.
Call (201) 791-4578 or see Francesca's website for more information.