Norma Benitez: My first-born son (we have twins) is named Sergio, so Marcos and I named our restaurant Sergio’s. I used to work at a taquería and I loved the environment so Marcos and I decided to combine tacos with pizza. Sergio’s opened in 2003, almost twenty years ago.
Marcos Navarrete: I knew it would be hard but not that kind of hard. I didn’t get much sleep. I worked 17 hours a day, from 60 to 90 hours a week. But I loved it. I love this kitchen.
Marcos: When I first came to this country from Mexico, thirty years ago, I worked in an Italian restaurant making pizzas. I thought that in the future I could open my own pizza place. When I bought this place, which was called Jonathan’s, I decided to make a bigger menu than what was here. We decided to make our own recipes. The pizza sauce and pizza dough are my own. I learned a lot from my uncle who owned a restaurant and my dad who worked at Calo in Andersonville for almost 40 years. We lived in Mexico and when my brothers and I got older, my dad brought us over one by one.
Norma: We lived in Glendale Heights when we bought Sergio’s; it took one hour and thirty minutes each way to drive here. Our two boys came here every weekend to help us. It was the only way for them to spend time with us. They started here when they were eleven.
It was hard for all of us. We spent our lives driving back and forth. We used to close at 11 pm. We got up at 7, came here and worked and got home around 12 or 12:30 am.
When the boys went to university we decided to move to this neighborhood. It was 2013. I work a little less now. I have no regrets. Everything we did was what I wanted to do and I’m happy with that.
Our kids are really good kids, one a police officer, one a lawyer and we’re happy. Our daughter goes to school nearby. Sergio’s helped a lot to educate them. We didn’t pay for that education but the one important thing they learned was to understand life isn’t really easy like some people think. That’s why they made the effort to get a career, a profession, because they know life isn’t easy. I think that’s the most important thing we gave to them, that if you want to do anything you have to work for it.
Marcos: We know almost everyone in the neighborhood.
I have customers of different nationalities and nobody cares how you look, what color you are. I have no problems, no fights. Never see anything that makes me think I want to move in the future because of bad people. This is my neighborhood. I don’t see a place better than this.
Norma: This is the best neighborhood in Chicago. In this neighborhood nobody cares who you are. They don’t care if you have money or you don’t, how you look. Everyone respects everyone else. In other neighborhoods it’s, "Are you Latinos? Are you Indian?" Here we have diversity and no one cares who you are. You don’t judge people because of their religion. This is the best neighborhood.
Norma Benitez and Marcos Navarrete were interviewed by neighbors in February of 2023.