Robert Monti, the owner of Papa Del’s, is a third-generation restaurateur. Robert’s grandfather, Lodovico Monti, opened an Italian restaurant in 1926 at the intersection of Western and Ogden in Chicago, Illinois. Due to the Great Depression, the restaurant closed in 1933. Robert’s father, Enrico (Henry) Monti, bought a pizza restaurant in Lombard, Illinois in April of 1960 called BiGimini Pizza which employed his children, including his eldest son Robert. Robert worked for his father from 1960-1970 while also attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In 1968 Enrico sold BiGimini, but Robert and some of his younger siblings continued to work for the new owners.
While in Champaign, Robert realized there was no good pizza to be found! He found a spot that would become the original location of Papa Del’s Pizza, on the corner of Wright and Healey. Robert, now playfully referred to as “Pops” or “Papa Del”, enlisted his fraternity brothers of Phi Sigma Epsilon as guinea pigs while perfecting his recipe. Papa Del’s opened on Homecoming Saturday, October 24th, 1970, with the help of about 6 employees to run his 64 seat restaurant. There was a line out the door. It was a long night.
In 1973, Pops bought the property at 206 East Green Street in Champaign, Illinois which was the original Evans Scholar’s house. It was condemned right after purchase. After a year or so of improvements, he converted the first floor of the old house into Papa Del’s Pizza Factory and opened in April of 1975.
In 1980, Papa Del’s ventured to West Lafayette, Indiana, home of Purdue. The location was popular and remained open until 1982. The commute was too hard for Pops and when the Purdue students were gone, business suffered.
In 1982, a new location opened in Rantoul, Illinois. With the announcement of Chanute Air Force Base closing this location closed shortly after.
In 1988, construction started on a new dining room and bar for the Green Street location as well as a remodel of the original house turning it into apartments. The restaurant opened in February of 1989, was named Papa Del’s Restaurant and Tavern and seated about 175 people.
The Wright Street location remained open until 1994, where it became “No Place At All”, a cheaper, college student-friendly option, until the lease expired.
For 14 years, the Green Street property was the sole location of Papa Del’s, but Pops had his eye on a bigger pie. He searched locations throughout the Champaign area for years finding a few he liked, but nothing to fit his needs.
Meanwhile in July of 2009, after much anticipation, he again opened a new location in SW Champaign, Papa Del’s Pizza at the Crossing, for carryout and delivery only.
In May of 2015, Papa Del’s purchased the old Coca-Cola Bottling Plant at 1201 South Neil, Champaign, with the intent to convert the building into one large location to serve all of Champaign and Urbana with their dining needs. But, once again, Pops founds himself undertaking a building in dire need of repairs.
We thank all of our patrons past, present and future for joining us on this journey and welcome you to the Papa Del’s Pizza Factory.