Brad Gorgas, owner of Bronko’s restaurant in Cicero, says strong networking helped him get his pizza and sandwich shop started.
“While living in Cicero, I was able to network and become friends with some really great people,” Gorgas says. “Everything fell into place at the right time, and I was able to secure a great location that has a lot of history. Our site was the old Corner Tavern, which, before we came along, was vacant for almost ten years. During the renovation of the building, people would come in to take a peek and share their wonderful stories of years gone by.”
Gorgas, who worked in the private and public safety industry for the last 20 years, says Bronko’s is unique, and customers have responded positively to the food menu.
“Bronko’s has been a northwest Indiana staple since 1964,” Gorgas says. “Our taste sets us apart from everyone else. That taste is a series of secret recipes melded together by Bronko Tarailo and Constantin Apostilapoulis. Everything we do is old-school and made from scratch. With the highest attention to detail in our recipes, we ensure every order is made to Bronko’s exact standards, as it was in the very beginning.”
Gorgas says Bronko’s opened in Gary, Indiana, on Election Day in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson was elected president of the United States. At 4 p.m. that day, Bronko Tarailo opened the doors of his first restaurant, a Chicken Delite franchise.
The menu included fried chicken, seafood, ribs and beef sandwiches, offered for take-out or delivery according to Gorgas. Pizza was introduced later, but was not initially well-received. In 1966, Constantin (Gus) Apostilapoulis joined the restaurant and improved the pizza. His pizzas were a big hit, and are still wildly successful today.
Gorgas says Cicero has been a great location.
“The Cicero community, and surrounding communities, have welcomed us with open arms,” he says. “It has been a very positive response from everyone.”
Gorgas says three of his pizzas have become customer favorites.
“I would have to say it’s a three-way tie between the Combo, Meatza, and Da Region pizzas,” he says. “Our other favorites would include our top-selling appetizer, Bronko’s stuffed mushrooms, and our made-from-scratch, braided breadsticks.”
Gorgas has his own personal favorites.
“I grew up eating this food, and I consider myself to be the brand’s biggest cheerleader,” he says. “My favorite pizza is a split between Da Region, with sausage, mushroom and green pepper, and a simple black olive pizza. Growing up, it seemed everyone always ordered a sausage, mushroom and green pepper pizza. I remember eating these with my dad and his parents at their kitchen table when I was very young.”
Along with variations of Italian beef, Bronko’s fried chicken is in a category all its own.
“Some say it’s better than the pizza,” Gorgas says. “During the 1980s and 1990s, Bronko’s sold more fried chicken than all the Kentucky Fried Chickens in northwest Indiana. Everyone would get it for open houses, weddings, get-togethers, you name it. We will be adding this to our menu very shortly.”
Gorgas has high praise for Cicero.
“I like to refer to Cicero as a diamond in the rough,” Gorgas says. “It is the up-and-coming dining destination. With Hamilton County quickly growing to the north, Cicero will be the next big boom. I love seeing Jackson Street lined with cars every night, with people coming to sample what Cicero has to offer. There is also a wonderful sense of community in Cicero that is hard to find in other places. Not only is this a wonderful place to dine, but also to call home.”
Gorgas notes that his kitchen staff at Bronko’s has been invaluable to him.
“Marina and Lidija Nakovska are sisters who have a combined 66 years experience with Bronko’s restaurants,” he says. “Along with their parents, they migrated from Macedonia in 1979, when they were ages 11 and 5, so they could have a better life in the United States.”
They started working at the Gary location, and every Bronko’s location throughout the years.
“Both of them made the very tough decision to move their lives down to central Indiana to embark on this journey with me, which I am very grateful for,” Gorgas says. “I’ve never seen harder workers than these two. They treat the business like it’s their own and it shows, not only in the kitchen but also in the quality of the food that is made daily.”
The Nakovska sisters have been through good and bad times with Bronko’s.
“When the kitchen caught fire in our Crown Point restaurant, they were the only two employees that stuck with the organization while everyone else bailed,” Gorgas says. “Uninterrupted devotion and dedication every single day is extremely hard to find in an employee these days. I try and lead my life from the example they set every day. They make me want to work harder. They are part of Bronko’s royalty.”
Bronko’s is located at 90 West Jackson Street in Cicero. For more info, call 317-376-8011 and visit bronkosofcicero.com.