EricS.

phof-martinos1

With no help from the banks and six kids at home, Frank and Angela Martino grew their little 20-seat pizza shop into a sprawling 300-seater in just 10 years.

phof-Frank-&-phone-orderLittle did Angela Martino know that Frank, her neighbor and brother’s best friend in Italy, would become her husband years later, well after both had landed Stateside. Or that he’d whisk her from the East Coast to Kokomo, Indiana, where in April 1962 they’d start a small donut shop, short-order restaurant and pizzeria with a $1,000 bank loan when they found it tough to pay the bills on a single salary. “We didn’t have an extra quarter for bus fare and got turned down by two or three banks,” recalls Angela, who owns Martino’s Italian Villa with her son, Michael. “We were young, and they didn’t think we’d make it.”

Still living paycheck to paycheck, Frank initially worked in the steel mills at night, while Angela handled bookkeeping and raised six kids, who all helped out in the restaurant. By serving up food like Mama used to make—sausage, dough, meatballs, bread and sauces made from scratch, hand-grated mozzarella—word-of-mouth soon spread about the little shop that served customers top-notch fare with a smile. “Our menu started off limited as we introduced people to different varieties of Italian food,” Angela notes. “We didn’t have any experience and started from square one, experimenting with our recipes. We had to really prove ourselves.”

Their hard work paid off: The couple expanded to a restaurant and lounge, growing from 20 seats to 125, and finally nearly 300, in just 10 years, serving Italian specialties alongside American favorites. Frank passed away in the mid-2000s, but now Angela’s grandson, Anthony, helps out, handling modern technology like social media, while Angela, at 81 years old, remains in the business every day with Michael, who joined full-time after college, in 1982. “We all work together to make sure it’s done right,” Angela says. “It’s a family affair, and our customers are part of the family, too.”

phof-Frank-&-Angela-making-pizzas

phof-Angela-in-kitchenOver the years, the Martinos have racked up a slew of “best of” awards and even earned the key to the city for their community involvement (including sponsoring a local Little League team for the last 48 years), while Angela has been lauded as female trailblazer of the year. But overcoming challenges through sheer persistence has been the real key to their longevity. “It’s about determination, because we’ve had rough times—recessions, new competition, factories closing in our area—but we stuck it out and worked hard,” Angela says. “You have to face challenges, go on and never give up. If you want something, you have to work hard. I haven’t found any other way to do it.”

Husband-and-wife workaholics Frank Martino and Angela Martino, shown here in the late ’60s and early ’70s, were constant fixtures at Martino’s Italian Villa. At 81, Angela still works in the business daily, crafting old-fashioned Italian fare from scratch.

By Tracy Morin

8 Comments

  1. Diane ShockeyReply
    March 5, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Martinos is definitely my favorite Pizza in Kokomo, I seriously tell everyone that! I love the story behind how Martinos all started and that it is still all family run. I remember moving to Kokomo IN the 70’s with my parents and it always being a special place to dine, especially with my father’s last name being INCONTRO.

  2. Dick BenkeReply
    March 5, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Sharon and Dick Benke We lived in Kokomo for 36 years before we moved to Florida in 1998. when we lived inKokomo we went to Martino very often and when
    we are back in town we always make it a point to go there for dinner. We were there in June 2016 and had a nice visit with Angie and Mike. And I also had the privilege to work with Frank at the Steel Mill.

  3. Cynthia RussellReply
    March 5, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Mike comes out to greet everyone by name or a handshake when he can. Love going there, the food is great.

  4. Jean CollinReply
    March 5, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    My Brother Mark & his wife Cheryl have a weekly habit of going to Martino’s and teasing me with pics of the famous Stromboli….

  5. Mark H.Reply
    March 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    One of Kokomos finest families! So glad to see this finally becoming a RECOGNIZED fact. Hard working, honest, friendly and humble. Always treated people the best and they still do. I could go on about these folks all day and still think of something I missed. I always left there feeling like I had just visited my Italian aunt and uncle! Thank you Frank and Angie!

  6. Mark H.Reply
    March 5, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Not mentioned here among the family members is John. He has dedicated his live to protecting and nurturing Howard county’s natural resources. He is passionate about intrducincing youth to the delights of fishing as well as the responsibilities involved in living with our natural heritage and helping it to grow again from a much damaged state of the sixties. We thank you, too, John Martino!

  7. MichaelReply
    March 5, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    My mother had a connection, with martino’s being from mass, away from her family GOD I MISS NANCY ANN BRANDANO DAVIS

  8. Greg & Gabi PettitReply
    March 24, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Living in Wabash makes it a little harder to eat at Martino’s as often as we would like. We try to go at least two Saturday’s a month. They have the best spaghetti and we like to take home a freshly baked loaf of italian bread. It is a nice warm friendly family business which is getting rare in this day and age. Keep up the good work Martino family!

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