2018-01-11 / Business

Buccilli family serves Houghton Lake pizza for 40 years

Story by Krista Tacey-Cater
Story by Krista Tacey-Cater


THE BUCCILLI FAMILY (From left) Lou (fourth from left) and Becky (third from left) Buccilli work with their (from left) grand­daughter, Madison Shamel, daughter, Ann Bruce, sister, Nancy Dailey and son, Louie Buccilli at Buccilli’s Pizza of Houghton Lake. The Buccillis recently celebrated the restaurant’s 40th anniversary. Lou Buccilli’s brother, Pat Buccilli Jr., owns the Clare location and his niece, Andrea Dailey, owns the Farwell location. (Courtesy photo) THE BUCCILLI FAMILY (From left) Lou (fourth from left) and Becky (third from left) Buccilli work with their (from left) grand­daughter, Madison Shamel, daughter, Ann Bruce, sister, Nancy Dailey and son, Louie Buccilli at Buccilli’s Pizza of Houghton Lake. The Buccillis recently celebrated the restaurant’s 40th anniversary. Lou Buccilli’s brother, Pat Buccilli Jr., owns the Clare location and his niece, Andrea Dailey, owns the Farwell location. (Courtesy photo) “We were just kids when we opened the place,” Lou Buccilli said of he and his wife, Becky, when they first opened Buccilli’s Pizza in 1977. Now, 40 years later, the Buccillis are celebrating four decades of business at their family-owned Houghton Lake restaurant.

In 1977, the then 21-year-old Lou and the 20-year-old Becky, had their own restaurant in Grayling, which they opened in 1975, however, when the opportunity came for the Buccil­li family to purchase the Houghton Lake building, they sold the Gray­ling shop and moved to Houghton Lake.


GATHERING TOGETHER The Buccilli’s Pizza family and staff gathered together in Septem­ber, 1981 for a going away party for employee Dan Ellsworth, who was about to leave for his military service. (Courtesy photo) GATHERING TOGETHER The Buccilli’s Pizza family and staff gathered together in Septem­ber, 1981 for a going away party for employee Dan Ellsworth, who was about to leave for his military service. (Courtesy photo) Lou said prior to his family pur­chasing the Houghton Lake res­taurant, it was known as The Beef House and was owned by Betty Bowman. Buccilli’s Pizza officially opened Sept. 9, 1977, which Lou remembers being a Friday. He said he remembers hoping the restaurant would be a way for his family to make a living and that it would make it through the winter months. He said when the restaurant was known as The Beef House, it had only been open during the summer months.

Becky recalled the winter of 1978 being particularly rough and said the blizzard that hit Michigan that year was trying. She said they were forced to use a space heater at one point, their well froze and they had to cover the windows with plastic.


FROM BURGERS TO THE ‘BUTSY’ (Above) Prior to the Buccilli family purchasing the building, it was operated as The Beef House by Betty Bow­man. Becky Buccilli said The Beef House’s kitchen was set up to serve burgers and steak so when they first opened in 1977 burgers were on the menu. (Below) Buccilli’s Pizza of Houghton Lake no longer has burgers on the menu, but it does have the “Butsy” pizza named after owner Lou Buccilli’s father, Pasquali “Butsy” Buccilli. (Courtesy photos) FROM BURGERS TO THE ‘BUTSY’ (Above) Prior to the Buccilli family purchasing the building, it was operated as The Beef House by Betty Bow­man. Becky Buccilli said The Beef House’s kitchen was set up to serve burgers and steak so when they first opened in 1977 burgers were on the menu. (Below) Buccilli’s Pizza of Houghton Lake no longer has burgers on the menu, but it does have the “Butsy” pizza named after owner Lou Buccilli’s father, Pasquali “Butsy” Buccilli. (Courtesy photos) “Surprisingly, we did well that year,” Lou said. Having made it through the winter months, Lou said the business pushed forward. Some of the biggest differences between 1977 and now is that the restaurant was open until 2-3 a.m. each day, they had given breakfast a try, there were burgers on the menu and there was no salad bar or delivery service.

Lou said that for a period of time, delivering pizza was not part of most pizza restaurant’s services, however, in the early 1980s it became more common and Buccilli’s Pizza be­gan offering delivery. The next big change that came was an addition to the building in 1993 which includ­ed extending the dining room, new restrooms and overhaul of the seat­ing area and the building’s exterior. Another building upgrade came in 1997, when the back dining room was added and the kitchen was re­modeled and enlarged. Lou said when they first purchased the build­ing it was 2,500 square feet and with the addition it bumped the building up to 5,000 square feet of space.

Although the building is a source of pride for the Buccillis, Lou said his employees are a major part of the success of Buccilli’s Pizza. With between 50-60 employees employed during the peak summer months, Lou and Becky said it is hard to count how many people have been employed at the restaurant over the last 40 years.


40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION In celebration of 40 years in business, Buccilli’s Pizza held a celebration the evening of Dec. 12. Buccilli’s Pizza officially opened Sept. 9, 1977. Owners Lou and Becky Buccilli’s daughter, Ann Bruce (far right) and her daughter, Juniper, were also in attendance. Ann Bruce is a server at the restaurant and her husband, Mike Bruce, is a delivery driver. The Buccilli family purchased the restaurant from Betty Bowman. It was formerly known as The Beef House. (Photo by Krista Tacey-Cater) 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION In celebration of 40 years in business, Buccilli’s Pizza held a celebration the evening of Dec. 12. Buccilli’s Pizza officially opened Sept. 9, 1977. Owners Lou and Becky Buccilli’s daughter, Ann Bruce (far right) and her daughter, Juniper, were also in attendance. Ann Bruce is a server at the restaurant and her husband, Mike Bruce, is a delivery driver. The Buccilli family purchased the restaurant from Betty Bowman. It was formerly known as The Beef House. (Photo by Krista Tacey-Cater) “…I am grateful for, and proud of the many employees we have had over the years. The restaurant busi­ness is notorious for a high rate of employee turnover. We have several employees that have been with us for 10, 20 and 30-plus years. I feel blessed for all the great employees that we have and hope that I have in some way had a positive impact on their decision to stay in food service. Then there are the many employees who started working at Buccilli’s as high school students. Many worked through high school, then through college and then went on to be suc­cessful in many different fields. I like to think, or least hope, that I have in some small way had a positive im­pact on their lives,” Lou wrote in a Jan. 5 email.


A ‘WORKING OWNER’ Buccilli’s Pizza Owner Lou Buc­cilli described himself as a “work­ing owner” as he can be found in the kitchen making pizza along with the rest of the staff. Buccill’s, father, Pasquali “Butsy” Buccilli, alongside his brothers, Melio and Angelo, began making pizza in the metropolian Detroit area in the 1950s. “Butsy” opened “Butsy’s” in Clawson before opening “Al­vito’s” in Harrison in 1972. (Photo by Krista Tacey-Cater) A ‘WORKING OWNER’ Buccilli’s Pizza Owner Lou Buc­cilli described himself as a “work­ing owner” as he can be found in the kitchen making pizza along with the rest of the staff. Buccill’s, father, Pasquali “Butsy” Buccilli, alongside his brothers, Melio and Angelo, began making pizza in the metropolian Detroit area in the 1950s. “Butsy” opened “Butsy’s” in Clawson before opening “Al­vito’s” in Harrison in 1972. (Photo by Krista Tacey-Cater) Becky added that the longevity in the employees “says something” about their restaurant and the envi­ronment they strive to keep. She said that dining room manager Diane Gagne and Lou’s sister, Nancy Dai­ley, who is also a dining room man­ager, have been constants at the res­taurant for decades. She added that Nancy has always had Lou’s back.


HELPING OUT Lou and Becky Buccilli’s son, Louie Buccilli, who still works at the Buccilli’s Pizza Houghton Lake location is pictured in 1987 making pizza. (Courtesy photo) HELPING OUT Lou and Becky Buccilli’s son, Louie Buccilli, who still works at the Buccilli’s Pizza Houghton Lake location is pictured in 1987 making pizza. (Courtesy photo) Lou said that he wants the em­ployees to “feel like family” be­cause it is a family business, with his granddaughter, Madison Shamel; his daughter, Ann Bruce; his son, Louie; and his sister, Nancy, all working to­gether.


BUCCILLI ‘PROUD’ OF STAFF (Above, front row, left to right) Buccilli’s Pizza owners Lou and Becky Buccilli, (middle row, left to right) Mi­chaela Peer, Diane Gagne, Deb Wilson, Brittany Stevenson, Vicky Howell, (back row, from left to right) Tracy Schuneman, Dan Peer, Helen Cowhy, Allison Winkler, Dave Millard, Richard Durling, Pete Visotsky, (below, front row, left to right) Nancy Dailey, Helen Cowley, Autumn Parks, Leah Snyder, Michelle Guldner, Allison Winkler, Kaitlyn Hans, Carol Rogers, Lou Buccilli, (back row, left to right) Mairen Lang, Gwen Bentley, Ed Lipon, Dale Gilley and Michael Faust are some of the current employees of Buccilli’s Pizza. “I am grateful for, and proud of the many employees we have had over the years,” Lou Buccilli said. (RP) BUCCILLI ‘PROUD’ OF STAFF (Above, front row, left to right) Buccilli’s Pizza owners Lou and Becky Buccilli, (middle row, left to right) Mi­chaela Peer, Diane Gagne, Deb Wilson, Brittany Stevenson, Vicky Howell, (back row, from left to right) Tracy Schuneman, Dan Peer, Helen Cowhy, Allison Winkler, Dave Millard, Richard Durling, Pete Visotsky, (below, front row, left to right) Nancy Dailey, Helen Cowley, Autumn Parks, Leah Snyder, Michelle Guldner, Allison Winkler, Kaitlyn Hans, Carol Rogers, Lou Buccilli, (back row, left to right) Mairen Lang, Gwen Bentley, Ed Lipon, Dale Gilley and Michael Faust are some of the current employees of Buccilli’s Pizza. “I am grateful for, and proud of the many employees we have had over the years,” Lou Buccilli said. (RP) He said his family has had a long tradition in the restaurant business, as his father, Pasquali “Butsy” Buc­cilli and uncles, Melio and Angelo, all had their own restaurants in the metropolitan Detroit area in the 1950s. Louie said his father, “Butsy” opened Alvito’s Pizza in 1957. In a write up called “The Buccilli’s Story,” it states “Butsy’s” restaurant was located in Clawson, on 14 Mile Road just west of Main, next to the then Ambassador Roller Rink. Then in 1972, after selling Alvito’s, which was named for the town in Italy where Butsy’s parents were from, Butsy relocated to Harrison and opened the first pizzeria under the Buccilli’s Pizza name.

“Today, the second and third gen­erations keep the Buccilli Pizza tra­dition alive, serving the same great pizza throughout northern Michi­gan,” the write up states.

In addition to the pride Lou has in the staff and family, he said clean­liness is also taken seriously at the restaurant.

“Almost without fail when some­body walks into our kitchen, whether it be a food vendor, a delivery person or salesperson, they compliment us on the cleanliness and organization of our kitchen,” Lou wrote in the email. “This is especially gratify­ing coming from someone who has been in many kitchens and says that ours is one of the, if not the, clean­est kitchen that they have been in. I have my staff to thank for that. They know I take cleanliness very serious­ly and they work hard to meet our standards.”

Looking back on the last 40 years, Lou said he never imagined that he would have a business that reached its 40-year anniversary. It’s his hope that the business stays in his family in the future and the community con­tinues to support his business as they always have.

Lou said without the support of the local community, Buccilli’s Piz­za would not be what it is today.

“I just wanted to reiterate how grateful Becky and I are to the com­munity for supporting our business for the past 40 years,” Lou said.

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