By Vince Gerasole

CHICAGO (CBS) — Cooked up since 1959, Aurelio’s Pizza is a Chicago area classic. 

The Aurelio family still operates two restaurants and franchises another 42, insisting that the dough be hand-made on site and that only a proprietary mix of cheese be sprinkled on top.

The crust should be “crispy on the bottom, light and fluffy in the middle,” Joe Aurelio, president of the company, tells CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole. “It shouldn’t flop over when you pick it up. It should be firm.”

But a version of the pizza bearing the Aurelio’s name is not living up to the family’s high standards, the family says.

Customers of an Aurelio’s franchisee in Frankfort contracted out to a Peotone frozen pizza factory to make a version to sell at fundraisers. People who have sampled the frozen pizza say “the crust was dry, it was a wimpy pizza and it just wasn’t up to the Aurelio’s standard,” Aurelio says.

The machine-made frozen pizza also had fewer products on top, he said.

“It hurts me to hear on the street the pizza doesn’t taste good,” Joe Aurelio says.

The family, to protect its years of hard work and multi-million dollar reputation, is now filing a lawsuit against that franchisee and the pizza factory. They also have locked up in a freezer the suspect pizza to be analyzed later for evidence.

 “If it has Aurelio’s  name on it it should be Aurelio’s  product underneath it, ” says Aurelio.

Aurelio’s has been praised by some big cheeses. Local comedian Jane Lynch talked about it on “The Tonight Show,” and area astronaut Daniel Tani gave Aurelio’s a stellar shout-out, saying it’s the thing he missed most about Earth when he was in space.

The Frankfort franchisee, Joe Pascale, and the makers of the frozen pizza, Teresa Foods, both declined comment.

The Aurelio family said even though they have a more than 20-year history with the franchisee, they had to file their lawsuit; otherwise, they could lose legal rights to their trademark.

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