CAHOKIA — Lisa Carter will never be called a quitter.
In March 2010, a fire destroyed Stingers, the restaurant she and her husband Alan opened just 13 months earlier on Illinois 3.
She wasn't about to let that stop her. They found a smaller temporary location on Jerome Lane in the village, reopened and stayed three years.
"That got old. We wanted a bigger place back," Lisa said last week, sitting in the third edition of Stingers Pizzeria, Bar & Grill, this one in a unique spot: on the shuttered campus of Parks College. It opened April 30.
"We wanted to get back on Route 3, but that wasn't possible," she added. But they got as close as they could, buying one of the abandoned red brick classroom buildings. It was near the corner of Falling Springs and Camp Jackson roads, within sight of the state road. A banner near the highway announces where the new Stingers is located.
"The complex had been empty and run down for a long time," Lisa, 43, said.
The exterior was shabby and weed-ridden, the interior "bad. We spent all winter renovating," she said. "Everything. It was a full gut and remodel."
Alan, who works for the village, is the "repairs and maintenance guy," said his wife.
The exterior got a serious sprucing up, too, with a new roof, parking lot, signs, covered patio with seating and a new entranceway.
Inside, Lisa said they tried to make the decor just like the original Stingers: Forest green walls, dark wood, dining and tall bar tables, plus booths. Now, there's also patterned green carpeting, a big open dining room that can seat 80, four big-screen TVs, a full bar and a private banquet room for 72.
The doors open at 8 with a Create-Your-Own-Plate breakfast for $2.25 to $5.75. Or, get Texas French Toast ($3.75), pancakes ($3.25), biscuits and gravy ($2.50/$3.99) and more.
Stingers shines at lunch, said Lisa.
"Cahokia is a lunch town," she said.
A lunch buffet of two pizza choices, another rotating entree and salad ($6.95) is served from 11 to 1:30 p.m.
Hand-tossed pIzzas made in a stone oven are the specialties. Pick thin or thick crust. Or, get a folded-over stuffed calzone instead, basted with garlic butter. A slice of pizza is $2.50-$4.50 (depending on style) or order a whole pie in three sizes, $8 to $12.50, plus $1 to $1.50 for added toppings. You can also choose from eight specialty pizzas that include Buffalo Chicken Pizza with your choice of sauce (tomato, hot or ranch) with chicken tossed in hot sauce, red onion, mozzarella and Cheddar cheeses ($11.50/$16/$18).
If you're craving something other than pizza, other popular menu items include the Italian Beef sandwich and Philly Cheesesteak on a garlic hoagie, each for $7.50. All 12 sandwich choices include chips, but for another 60 cents you can substitute fries or Tater Tots, or add a house or garden salad for $1.99.
The same goes for the eight burgers.
On the lighter side, there are eight salad choices.
The appetizer menu is huge and includes Stingers Bread, topped with Provel cheese, onions, diced tomato and a mild pepper mix for $4.25.
There also are daily specials, such as Over-Stuffed Pepper with a dinner roll for $6.25 on Tuesday.
Lisa recently added a dinner menu that runs from 4:30 to 8 p.m., offering four chicken dishes and seven homemade pasta items.
Growing up in the restaurant business (her father owned a pizza place in Cahokia for years), she only momentarily considered giving up on the business after the fire in 2010.
She thought about her "loyal, hard-working" employees and knew she wouldn't do that.
"We think of ourselves as a family here," she said. "I wouldn't be able to do this without them."
Stingers Pizzeria, Bar & Grill
Location: 440 Falling Springs Road, Cahokia
Offers: Breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus carry-out and catering
Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays; to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
Handicapped accessible: Yes