PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — While voting is a birthright for most of us and one that is easy to take for granted, it was a proud milestone for a man who runs a neighborhood pizzeria in Portage.
“I was very excited to go vote this morning. It was really special,” Francesco Impellizzeri told 24 Hour News 8.
He and his family have owned and operated the beloved Franco’s Italian Pizzeria on S. Westnedge Avenue for the last 35 years.
Franco himself came to the U.S. 36 years ago to be with his wife, with whom he now has four daughters and one grandson.
“I come here as a young guy. I was 24 years old the day I come to this country,” he said Tuesday evening as he and his crew prepared for business. “I didn’t speak any English, I don’t know any words. Open a business, have a family, a lot of things change.”
Having run a pizzeria in his native Sicily, it was a natural to go into that same business here.
“I see a lot of opportunity in this country for people who want to really work. There are a lot of opportunities here,” Impellizzeri said.
Though he has been here nearly four decades, he didn’t become a citizen until May 16, when he took the oath at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
On Tuesday, he joined millions of his fellow Americans at the polls.
“This morning, the first thing (when) I got up, I say to my wife, ‘I gotta go vote,’” Impellizzeri said, tears welling up in his eyes. “It’s nice. I’m very proud I did it. Oh, yeah.”
His daughter, Carmelina Tierney, said her dad wanted the experience.
“Voting means, to him, just to make it official that he is officially a citizen and very proud of that,” she said.
Impellizzeri was happy to tell anyone who came into his store about his Tuesday.
“I’m very proud. I got my sticker here,” he said, pointing to his chest.
He said he’ll never miss the opportunity to vote.
“I gotta get more involved and see what’s happening,” he said. “But this is a great country.”
Impellizzeri did not want to say who he voted for, but said he is willing to bring you a homemade pie no matter which party you belong to.