Smile Politely

Talking Papa Del’s with Andrea Seten

Papa Del’s has always been a part of the culture in Champaign-Urbana with tons of students going for their signature pizza. I specifically remember a time when I went there for my friend’s birthday, and the three of us could barely finish one extremely delicious (and filling) pizza. So, imagine how excited I was when I realized I had the chance to interview Andrea Seten, one of the restaurant managers at Papa Del’s.

In her interview, she most notably delves into the family-oriented background of Papa Del’s and its strong connection with the community. It makes sense that people feel the need to come back to visit Champaign just for Papa Del’s pizza.

She also discussed how we can help Papa Del’s during this global pandemic of COVID-19. It’s important that we keep supporting local restaurants like Papa Del’s that have become such a staple for our community. With Papa Del’s being one of the restaurants students remember fondly when coming back to C-U, there is no doubt that Papa Del’s will continue to please the community with their delicious pizza for generations to come.

A cropped photograph of Andrea Seten, manager of Papa Del's. Photo provided by Andrea Seten.

Photo provided by Andrea Seten.

Smile Politely: Hello! Can you introduce yourself?

Andrea Seten: My name is Andrea Seten. I have been working for my dad at Papa Del’s since 1989. I started bussing tables. I attended the University of Illinois and received a Bachelor of Science: Food Science and Human Nutrition, Restaurant Management degree. I currently live in rural Seymour with my husband and two daughters. We have a hobby farm with chickens, ducks, turkeys, guinea fowl, goats, sheep, dogs, and cats. I am also a Girl Scout leader.

SP: Can you talk about the history of Papa Del’s?

Seten: Papa Del’s opened in 1970. My dad is a third generation restaurateur. He opened the restaurant while in school at U of I because he realized he couldn’t find any good pizza here! We have moved over the years, and we even had locations in Rantoul, Illinois and West Lafayette, Indiana.

A slice of Papa Del's pizza is being lifted out of a fresh pizza pie with stringy mozzarella cheese. Photo by Justine Bursoni.

Photo by Justine Bursoni.

SP: Papa Del’s is a C-U staple. Can you talk about the relationship that locals or U of I graduates have with your pizza?

Seten: We have a strong connection to the U of I. Without the University, this town would not be the same. We have alumni that travel for games, and they go out of their way to stop in for pizza. Then we have legacy students: their parents went to school here and told them about Papa Del’s. We also get a lot of stories from our shipping customers. They have moved across the country and can’t find something quite like our pizza.

SP: Can you talk a bit about the move to your new location?

Seten: Our building on Green Street was slowly falling apart. It was a 100+ year old fraternity house. It housed a few things before we moved there. The biggest complaints were wait time and parking. We had a small lot and only one oven. The location at The Crossing was pick up and delivery only, and parking was limited. We decided we needed a larger space to house all of the events that people requested, adequate parking, and room for more ovens.

SP: How would you describe the relationships between employees at Papa Del’s?

Seten: We have quite a few long time employees. Two of our managers have been here for about 40 years. It is truly a family business. All of my siblings have worked, or do work here currently, along with family members and children of other employees. There is also quite a long list of former employees that met at Papa Del’s while working here — and are now married. 

An italian beef sandwich sits on tin foil in a white styrofoam carryout container with fries above the sandwich and several banana peppers below it. Photo by Rachael McMillan.

Italian beef. Photo by Rachael McMillan.

SP: What’s your favorite thing on the Papa Del’s menu?

Seten: After eating pizza basically my whole life, now I tend to only eat it once a week. My favorite menu items are our salads. They are so good. Fresh and made to order. The fried calamari (ours include the tentacle: my favorite part!) and our sandwiches. The Italian beef with provolone cheese and hot giardiniera is so good.

SP: What items on the menu do you think would be best for carryout?

Seten: Pizza is a no brainer. We do have our entire menu available for pick up and delivery. We package everything to get to you fresh. We do have a heated cabinet to hold orders until the guests arrive.

Three deep dish pizza pies with sausage on top are in a metal circle pie pans in a dark oven. Photo by Justine Bursoni.

Photo by Justine Bursoni.

SP: Have your hours adjusted to better support delivery and carryout only?

Seten: We have adjusted our hours to only be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. We have a full time staff of delivery drivers and cashiers.

SP: How can the community support Papa Del’s during this tough time?

Seten: Order delivery, order curbside, or ship our pizza to a friend across the country. We have gift cards available, t-shirts, hats, and more. We have quick grab-and-go slices at lunch, seven days a week.

SP: Thanks, Andrea!

A slice of pizza is being lifted out by a metal spatula held by a hand from a full Papa Del's pizza pie. Photo by Justine Bursoni.

Photo by Justine Bursoni.

While dining in beautiful Papa Del’s dining room may not be possible right now, make sure to order delivery when craving some tasty pizza.

Papa Del’s
1201 S Neil Street
10 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily

Top image by Justine Bursoni.

More Articles