The Krawiec family officially opened Starlite in 1958 in South Bend, Indiana; however, the history behind the creation of this restaurant and bar goes back much farther than that. The Krawiec family traveled to America in the early 1930s from Poland. The name “Krawiec” (pronounced “Kray-wick”) actually means “tailor” in Polish and was not changed or “Americanized” when the family first arrived in New York. Although the art of tailoring clothes is quite removed from the pizza-making business, the Krawiec family has been “tailoring” their pizza recipe and modifying and adapting their food to meet their customers’ needs and tastes for decades.
Joseph and Anna Krawiec first settled in Chicago but then soon relocated to South Bend. They had many children including Chet, Gene, and Stanley. Joseph and Anna received their citizenship papers in 1932 and then opened a bar called the “Golden West” in 1935 at 2717 Western Avenue in South Bend. In the mid-1950s, pizza was becoming increasingly popular and so daughter Gene attended a baking school in Chicago. When she returned to her family, she brought back knowledge of how to create pizzas, and the family quickly began forming and refining their recipe. Golden West was transformed into a restaurant and bar and re-named Starlite. The doors opened in 1958.
The name “Starlite” was chosen after the famous Russian satellite Sputnik launched into space in late 1957. The world became fascinated with outer space exploration and so the Krawiec family created the slogan, “Our pizza will put your taste buds in orbit” to connect with that theme.
The entire family helped to keep Starlite running and when Joseph and Anna passed away in 1963, Chet and Gene took over the restaurant and bar. Meanwhile, brother Stanley enlisted in the army. When he returned, he eventually married and had two sons, David and Greg, both of whom would later help at the restaurant. After high school, David Krawiec enlisted in the Navy, and then pursued a career in sales after his service was over. Starlite continued to build a name and revered reputation in South Bend. When Gene passed away in 1986, Chet became the sole owner of Starlite. In 1992, he began to look at other possible locations in the South Bend area to offer his family’s unique pizza to the public. He chose Granger, Indiana.
After many years in sales, David’s career path altered and he found himself wanting a change. He felt pulled to the family tradition of pizza-making and began managing the Starlite Granger site in 1995. He expanded the pizza selections to items such as the BLT combination and Hawaiian style pizza. He created a focaccia bread and modified a pierogi recipe while adding in other dinner items to his menu. Pierogis are dumplings of unleavened dough that are stuffed with cheese and then de-fried or baked to golden perfection. The pierogis offered at Starlite are quite popular and there is often a huge increase during Lent season.
Chet passed away in 2001. With no one to run the Western Avenue location and due to the escalating costs of continuing an operation there, the Krawiec family decided to close down that Starlite site and sell the building. Starlite Granger continued to see rising success with its recipe and family-style dining. David began experimenting with delivery and “take-and-bake pizzas,” in which customers can bake the Starlite pizza in their own home ovens with the help of a special oven tray. David’s three children Holley, Nicole, and John all helped out there to make pizzas, work in the kitchen, and assist customers throughout the years, but the three have pursued other careers.
The recipe has changed little over the years, still providing a unique pizza to the South Bend area. Starlite is distinctive and known for its soft, thin crust and sweet pizza sauce. The sauce and pizza dough are secret family recipes and various types of cheeses are blended throughout the week to provide a delicious and fresh-tasting pizza. Throughout changing tastes, cultural shifts, wars, and economic downturns, Starlite has subsisted and endured for more than 50 years to continue bringing an exceptional and distinctive pizza pie to the South Bend area, proving that locally and family-owned businesses can survive and even thrive during shifting and unstable economic times.