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Local

Elburn firefighters open Firehouse Pizza in Geneva

GENEVA – With names such as backdraft pizza and meat wagon pizza, the newly opened Firehouse Pizza and Grill, at 17 N. Fourth St., Geneva, reflects two of the owners' professions as firefighters for Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District.

Mike Huneke, a lieutenant and his wife, Christine Huneke, a firefighter/paramedic, and their friend, teacher Edgar Pereda, opened the firehouse-themed eatery late last month.

The Hunekes live in St. Charles Township, and Pereda lives in Elgin Township. Mike Huneke is a 1999 graduate of St. Charles High School.

"Why do this? It was an opportunity," Mike Huneke said. "Someone came to us about another location, and it ended up not working out. But the seed was planted."

Huneke said he had worked with Pereda in the restaurant business years ago. His wife had worked in restaurants before they became firefighters and Pereda became a teacher.

"We found a location, built a business plan and decided to run with it," Huneke said. "Geneva is a great location right in the center of the Tri-Cities. So far, the city and building people – everybody we worked with was tremendously welcoming."

So after more than 15 years of working as firefighters – she started in Elburn, he started in St. Charles and went full time in Elburn in 2002 – they also own a pizza carryout restaurant. Because each has a full-time job, their time at the restaurant is staggered, and they depend on hired staff, he said.

They took some pizza names from firehouse terms, he said, such as "backdraft," which occurs when a sudden infusion of oxygen re-ignites a fire, often explosively. The backdraft pizza has refried beans, onion, mozzarella and cheddar, topped with lettuce, tomatoes and jalapeños.

The meat wagon pizza has sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon and American bacon. A meat wagon is a term dating back to old-time firemen, Huneke said, referring to a time when the coroner and the ambulance were sometimes the same vehicle.

"It's all our own recipes," Huneke said. "Nothing out of a can."

The restaurant's general manager, Patrick Liberg, said other specialty pizzas include macaroni and cheese, southern buffalo chicken pizza and garlic butter pizza. Firehouse Pizza and Grill also offers wraps, salads and appetizers.

"My favorite is the Italian beef pie pizza," Liberg said. "It has barbecue sauce, Italian beef, hot giardiniera and mozzarella cheese."

Because of its name and affiliation with two firefighters, local firehouses – Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, Elburn and Fermi – have been ordering their pizzas, Huneke said.

Firehouse Pizza is hosting a ribbon-cutting event at 4 p.m. today with free samples and raffles. Information is available online at www.firehousepizzaandgrill.com and by calling 630-262-8000.

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