Walking into the small town pizzeria, Anna’s Pizza and Pasta shows you the essence of comfort as soon as the door rings. Music plays in the background and friendly staff greets you right away. Decorated with references of awards and magazine features, the walls showcase a skillfully painted colorful Italian village on your left and a luscious green countryside on the right; all of this is visible by peering through renaissance era stone window frames. The smaller than normal dining area welcomes you to sit where you like as you’ll feel cozy wherever. The tables consist of cliche red and white plaid tablecloths that feel like they originated from this specific place. Its atmosphere is nothing but serene. If you walk up to the counter you see a new item or a deal written on chalkboard paint encased in those same realistic window frames. Ice cream and baseball cards are sold at the counter for those who wish to indulge themselves in such treats. On the counter sits a donation jar for a local citizen suffering from ill-health because Anna’s Pizza & Pasta cares about the community and everyone in it and a magazine, Pizza Today (popular with pizzeria owners and enthusiasts) featuring the first guest editor and Anna’s Pizza and Pasta owner, Brian Weavel.
The eccentric Mr. Brian Weavel started Anna’s Pizza and Pasta in 1995. He always has a bright smile on his face, a red Anna’s shirt and blue jeans.
“I worked in high school making pizzas and I liked it” he says, smiling in recollection as we sat down and talked.
After attending the University of Wisconsin at Platteville to achieve a degree in human resource management, he decided he wanted to be his own boss. The perks of being your own boss he states happily: “I pick my own hours”, “I do what I see fits.” The most important part is that Weavel is in control of everything; that’s one of his favorite parts. We discussed how much working for someone can really suck.
“See no one wants that!” he exclaims.
“I couldn’t agree more.”
The downsides are that being the sole owner can take up lots of time. He spends about an hour a day on bookkeeping: bills, paychecks, that sort of thing; he always needs to be available for his distributors to deliver food, and he always needs to be there to open by 4, obviously. He arrives at three and can stay until midnight or even later on the busiest of nights—mostly Fridays and the days before holidays. This coincides with his least favorite part of the job.
“The hours and family life… it’s a tough balance”
His two kids love the place, however. I can’t think of anything better than walking from school to free pizza. Neither can his kids and their friends because that’s exactly what they do.
“It’s a nice little hangout for them… they get free pizza!”
One could inquire, “What makes Anna’s Pizza and Pasta different? It sounds like thousands of other pizza places.”
To which I would say, “Walking into Anna’s Pizza and Pasta properly represents how local businesses should conduct themselves throughout the community.” If you took a look at the wall, you would see the plaques and awards commemorating Brian for his outstanding representation of being a good citizen.
Born and raised in Rockford, the third most populous city in Illinois, he longed for the small town life. Anna’s Pizza and Pasta was a product of a wonderful small town, Winnebago, Illinois, and the life it welcomes.
“A diamond in the rough of Rockford” proudly proclaims Weavel.
He likes to keep Anna’s Pizza and Pasta a staple of the community by actively participating in community events and fundraisers. Something special is his 4th of July breakfast pizzas. He arrives at
4 am to begin making the pizzas for hungry parade goers. He then donates 50 percent of the proceeds to the 4th of July Commission for parade funding and fireworks. Just one - he gives way back to his community. Recently, he and a long time employee set off on a 24-hour pizza making marathon to raise awareness of the homeless in the Rockford area. The two successfully raised $2600 for the Rockford Rescue Mission. Lastly, he regularly sponsors local kid's sports teams. He buys the jerseys and coaches the teams in baseball, basketball and soccer. After the year ends, he puts the team on “Anna’s Wall of Fame” to showcase the kids and their accomplishments.
Due to Anna’s Pizza and Pasta's obvious love and appreciation for the community, Weavel has been voted “Business Man of the Year”, “Citizen of the Year” and he was the first Guest Editor of Pizza Today — the magazine loved his small town perspective on things claiming 65% of the vote featured in PMQ Pizza Magazine three times and Pizza Today twice. He served for the Chamber of Commerce for five years and made quite the impression on the people of Winnebago. Anna’s Pizza and Pasta is highly sought after as a place of employment due to this; consequently, Weavel always has a huge stack of applications. His employees love their job and him and he loves and appreciates all of the hard work his employees put in.
Anna’s Pizza and Pasta has been an amazing restaurant for twenty years. I remember making pizzas in the kitchen as a kid and Weavel helping me and teaching me how to make a good pizza. I remember him sharing baseball cards with me—my passion at the time—and it made me love going there. Now that I’m older, it means a lot that I can share this wonderful place with others and to show that Anna’s Pizza and Pasta isn’t your average pizza place. Anna’s Pizza and Pasta perfectly shows a small-town business done right. Should you ever be in the Rockford area, make a trek to Winnebago to visit Anna’s Pizza and Pasta. Its serenity is completely worth it.
- Nick Brady