Home Run Inn

This pizzeria, named after an errant baseball, has hit home runs in the frozen-food and family markets. Home Run Inn began in 1923 as a small tavern on Chicago’s South Side. Founded by Mary and Vincent Grittani, the tavern received its name when a baseball from the neighborhood park smashed through one of the windows….



This once-modest operation evolved into the self-proclaimed world’s largest pizzeria—and a multistate franchise. Joe Aurelio Jr. started Aurelio’s Pizza in 1959 with a $2,500 loan. Business was initially slow at the little four-seat restaurant; Aurelio kept it afloat through sales of his beef sandwiches—only six or seven pizzas were usually sold in an evening. But…


Shield’s Pizza

This Motor City institution is passionate about its pizza, but it’s also well-loved by the community for its heart. In 1940s Detroit, pizza was picking up steam as a favorite food. When a former employee of a local pizzeria brought his recipe to the Polish owners of Shield’s Bar, pies were quickly added to the…


Bill’s Pizza & Pub

Divine intervention played a role in keeping this little Illinois underdog—now famous for its two-crusted Double Decker pies—afloat when it first opened in 1957. When most teens in the ’50s were cruising around town and lining up dates, 17-year-old Bill Kwiatkowski was embarking on entrepreneurship, purchasing a tiny sandwich shack in Mundelein, Illinois. He had…

Ken Petti, with his wife, Almeda, introduced Master Pizza in 1955.

Master Pizza

After nearly 60 years in business, this Cleveland-area pizzeria keeps up with the times through aggressive marketing and social media strategies. Not long after opening Master Pizza (masterpizza.com) in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, in 1955, founder Ken Petti was primed for impressive growth. By 1960, he took on four partners to start franchising—the first business to…

Lombardi’s, opened in 1905, is credited as the country’s first pizzeria

Lombardi’s Pizzeria

Credited as the first pizzeria in the country, this Little Italy institution has been churning out coal-fired pies—and inspiring young pizzaiolos—for nearly 110 years. When Gennaro Lombardi, a bread baker from Naples, Italy, set up shop in New York’s Little Italy in 1905, he forever changed the course of American eating habits. Serving the then-predominantly…


Boston Pizza International

A Mountie named Jim Treliving helped turn this Alberta, Canada, pizza store into a powerhouse with more than 400 locations across North America. In 1964, Greek immigrant Gus Agioritis opened Boston Pizza (bostonpizza.com) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, with plans for steady growth. But even he couldn’t have predicted how far it would come—thanks in part…

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From the start, Donatos founder Jim Grote used precise measurements to ensure consistency and turned the “pizza fad” into a 154-location powerhouse. In 1963, Jim Grote’s dad famously warned him, “This whole pizza thing is just a fad.” But with $1,300 borrowed from his father and future father-in-law, Grote opened his first Donatos (donatos.com) pizzeria…

Plain cheese pie remains a top seller for the pizzeria.

Villa Italian Kitchen

From Broadway beginnings in 1964 to 400 locations today, this fast-growing pizzeria served cheese slices to Ed Sullivan in its early years. Naples, Italy, native Michele Scotto opened Villa Pizzeria (now called Villa Italian Kitchen) in 1964 with a handful of authentic old-world recipes and a commitment to hospitality and quality ingredients. Located next to…



This Coney Island favorite attracts crowds year-round—and from around the world. Zagat once claimed of Totonno Pizzeria Napolitana (totonnosconeyisland.com), “Only God makes better pizza.” And this legendary pizzeria has certainly received its share of cult-like worship since its beginnings in 1924, when Anthony “Totonno” Pero opened his own pizzeria in Brooklyn’s Coney Island (he had…