Presenting: The Pizza Hall of Fame!
Celebrating America’s oldest and most popular pizzerias!
The Pizza Hall of Fame celebrates the oldest and most successful pizzerias across the United States. Sponsored by PMQ Pizza Magazine, the the Pizza Industry Business Magazine, the Pizza Hall of Fame aims to identify and preserve the evolving history and traditions of America’s pizza culture. Its membership consists of pizzerias, typically in business for 50 years or longer, that are recognized as industry landmarks and institutions in their towns and cities. In addition to honoring these successful businesses and their owners, the Pizza Hall of Fame also recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the pizza restaurant industry.
“We always tried to act big, even though we weren’t always a big brand.”
“It was a great time when we were all here—even though my grandfather and uncle used to always fight. There are still marks on the wall from when it got hit with the roller. People would say, ‘We’re just here for the show.’”
“Figuring out how to hold on to your culture while expanding is really difficult. Especially when it’s a family company, it’s hard to not be able to control every plate of food, every guest interaction. But, because we are family-owned, because we all grew up in Nonny’s pizza shack, we’re committed to staying true to her values—Italian comfort food, taking care of our employees, giving back to the community. I think those values have allowed us to remain successful.”
“Nearby there was a seminary for priests in training, and after curfew they’d order 20 pizzas—that really helped keep the business afloat in the early years. My father would hide behind a tree with the pizzas until someone snuck out to get them!”
“You can’t take everything; you have to give something back. If you’re going to stay in business, you have to be involved. You have to be active in the community and take part.”
“We’re simple folk. For us, it’s not about how big we get, but about maintaining the integrity of what we already have.”
“Our greatest success is our thousands of successful former employees: doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, etc., whom we were able to help through college and mold early in their lives as individuals.”
“My family has been—and, hopefully, always will be—a good team. It all just comes very naturally; I guess that comes from doing it our whole lives.”
“If people grew up here and leave, when they come back, this is the first place they come—and they bring others with them. We refuse to change the recipe or cheapen the product, and it shows.”
“People will come from 70 miles away to get our pizza—it’s just amazing. If I wasn’t making good pie, I’d retire, but I’m still healthy, and it’s hard to give it up!”
“Our Detroit-style deep-dish pizza is the centerpiece of the menu, but we’ve expanded to appeal to a wider variety of customers, with salads, appetizers, pasta, ribs, burgers and sandwiches. But when it comes to the pizza, we don’t take any shortcuts—we use the same recipes for sauce and dough that have been handed down for years, and we’re proud to maintain the quality that made Shield’s famous.”
“The sauce is now organic. We actually make pizza the same way it was done in 1959, before all the preservatives and artificial stuff were even around.”
“Pizza is going to make money, no matter what kind you make, because people love it so much.”
“My dad did everything in those early days of the pizzeria. He wanted to be an achiever. He believed in keeping it simple and not doing more than what you’re good at.”
“The key is consistency with the product—that’s what keeps you going. We still hand-stretch the dough to give it that homemade, mom-and-pop feel. When something works, we stick with it.”
“I think the biggest success—and challenge—is being able to stay in business for so many years. There will always be good and bad economic times, but as long as you serve a great product at a good price, people will keep coming back.”
“To try to stimulate interest in pizza in general, he came up with the idea of barbecue pizza, which no one, even in Chicago or New York, had at the time. But in Memphis everyone knew what barbecue was, and people liked the pizza and started coming back for more.”
“In a true family-run business, you know that people care about what they’re doing, that the people involved have passion and really like what they do. After 26 years in the business, I’m still learning every day. Once you think you know everything, that’s when things go bad.”
“In the 1950s, we were one of the first places in the country to do frozen pizzas. My grandfather would par-bake pizzas and sell them to grocery stores for retail.”
“As far as Sicilian goes, our pizza is different than anything you’ve had before, with a crunchy bottom, a chewy, airy center, and sweet sauce. You can’t have just one slice!”
“My uncle George was a real innovator. In the ’60s, he bought a van with a heated unit and a motorcycles with boxes on the back to deliver when no one else was doing that. It didn’t really take off; he was ahead of his time, and the system wasn’t perfected yet.”
“If you ate here in 1954, you can come in today and enjoy the same pizza you did back then. Customers who came here as children continue to come in with their children and grandchildren. We really are a family tradition.”
Everything runs better with more hands in the business, but I also have a lot of employees that have been with me for many years. One employee has been at Pica’s since he was making boxes at 14, and he’s 53 now. These people are like family to me.
We’ve resisted changing much of the key elements Tony Pizzi built upon—for instance, we still use a simple clay pizza box. This little place has a history second to none, and my goal was and always has been to tell the story of Tony and Mary Pizzi.
It’s… very rewarding to hear past employees who have moved on to other careers say that Valentino’s instilled in them a strong work ethic. Ultimately, our greatest success is the people who have worked with us over the past 52 years.