Salerno's on the Fox founder Adam Salerno remembered for passion about restaurant

  • Adam Salerno in the lounge of his restaurant, Salerno's on the Fox, in June 2004.

    Adam Salerno in the lounge of his restaurant, Salerno's on the Fox, in June 2004. Daily Herald file photo/June 2004

 
 
Updated 2/11/2022 4:48 PM

Friends, family and customers are mourning the death of the founder of the popular Salerno's on the Fox restaurant in St. Charles.

Adam Salerno died on Tuesday, according to a Facebook post from his son, Joe Salerno.

 

"Adam absolutely loved his home. I called the restaurant his home because that's where he was every day," Joe Salerno wrote.

Salerno emigrated as a child from Italy to the United States. His older brothers in 1966 opened a tavern in Berwyn, which quickly became a restaurant well-known for its pizzas.

While working at the tavern, Salerno attended Roosevelt University. After graduation in 1972, he worked for several years for the Jewel Foods corporation.

In 1975, when the Salernos were looking to expand, Adam Salerno went west -- way west -- to a spot at 320 N. Second St. in St. Charles, on the west bank of the Fox River. Besides pasta and pizzas, Salerno added steaks, fish and other items.

"Because we were both Italian, we had a great connection to begin with," former Mayor Sue Klinkhamer said Friday. She moved to the city around the time Salerno's on the Fox opened.

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"He really took a gamble on coming out to the middle of nowhere at the time," she said.

As mayor, her office looked over the Fox toward the restaurant. She would go there for a pepper and egg sandwich for lunch and a talk with Salerno.

"He was never shy about telling me what he thought about something," Klinkhamer said.

Salerno lived on the west side of town for a while in the 1970s before moving to Oak Brook.

In 2004, ownership of the restaurant was transitioning to son Joe Salerno, who was head chef and manager.

"My role in this business was to take it from nothing and build it to the level it is today," Adam Salerno said at the time in a Daily Herald article. "Joe's task is to take it to the next level."

The restaurant survived a fire in 2011 that caused roughly $450,000 in damage. Salerno was there the next day, figuring out how fast it could reopen, even if just for carryout.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The elder Salerno remained a fixture at the restaurant, even if it just to drop in for a visit with the staff, Joe Salerno wrote.

"He didn't work a day because he lived doing what he lived. He didn't work with words; he worked beside you with action. Salerno's on the Fox was his passion!" Joe Salerno wrote. "Adam loved St. Charles, but most of all he loved Salerno's on the Fox."

Salerno, 74, is survived by his wife, Isabella; sons Adam and Joe; brothers Anthony and Joseph; and seven grandchildren. His wake is Tuesday at Salerno's Rosedale Chapel in Roselle, and a funeral Mass will be said Wednesday at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church in Oakbrook Terrace.

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