Giovanni Donancricchia, slain inside his restaurant. (Credit: Donancricchia Family)

Giovanni Donancricchia, slain inside his restaurant. (Credit: Donancricchia Family)

UPDATED: 6/20/2013 12:55 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The owner of a popular west suburban restaurant was killed Thursday while trying to protect his wife from an armed robber.

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CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports 64-year-old Giovanni Donancricchia and his wife, Angela, were closing his pizzeria, Stella Albano’s in Cicero, around 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, when a robber walked through the back door.

When the suspect put a gun to the head of his wife, Donancricchia grabbed her and told her to run out of the restaurant.

As she got outside, she heard the gunshots that killed her husband of 42 years.

Donancricchia, a native of Sicily, had owned the restaurant in the 5900 block of West Roosevelt Road for about 25 years, according to Cicero town spokesman Ray Hanania.

“He was the flagship of our family,” said Donancricchia’s son, Saverio. “He came here and put me and my sisters through college and gave us a much better life than we had in Sicily.”

The pizzeria was a popular spot in Cicero and was famous for its pizza puffs. The restaurant was once featured on a Travel Channel segment.

Donancricchia was pronounced dead at the scene just before 1 a.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

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Donancricchia named the restaurant Stella Albano’s in honor of his wife.

A co-worker said the Donancricchias treated their staff like family.

A man who works at a cell phone store across the street said he had genuine affection for Donancricchia.

Jose Gomez said he’s worried after learning of the shooting, “because I’m here … it’s just a couple feet away.”

“We always keep our doors locked, as well,” Lopez said. “I heard a lot of people got robbed around this area.”

It wasn’t the first time Albano’s had been robbed. The pizzeria also was hit in March.

Investigators have recovered surveillance video of the shooting from inside the store, but have not decided whether or not to release the images to the public in hopes of catching the killer.

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A sign on the door of the pizzeria said “closed until further notice” Thursday morning. It was unknown if or when the shop would reopen.