Santucci’s Original Square Pizza
One of Philadelphia’s royal families of pizza has thrived for four generations, right down to a six-year-old hostess and problem solver—and continues to set its sights on growth.
In 1959, Joseph and Philomena Santucci, a policeman and stay-at-home mom, opened Santucci’s Original Square Pizza in Philadelphia with one goal: to build a business they could leave to their eight children. Philomena’s traditional Italian family recipe for pizza was a bit different—square pies baked on cookie sheets, sauce ladled over the cheese—sold from a small, single-oven shop in front of their home. “My dad, Frank Sr., spent all of his free time in the restaurant and asked for a bigger kitchen to really grow the business,” recounts Alicia Santucci, co-owner and granddaughter of Joseph. “In a new location with six ovens, he was able to build a reputation based on quality food that was very successful.”
The third generation, meanwhile, kicked that growth mentality into high gear. After moving to South Philly in 2011, the family hired an executive chef to create a full menu of Sunday-dinner staples. Fielding capacity crowds, a second location with a full bar was added in 2015 for larger parties and special events. Last March, a third opened in Philadelphia’s Roxborough neighborhood, and a fourth is now headed to the Jersey Shore. Alicia’s parents still lead the troops, while Alicia shares responsibilities with her two brothers and husband. “We’re owners with a high work ethic. We’re constantly present in the business, the recipes haven’t changed, and we have a motivated staff,” Alicia says. “We always say we’re family-owned and -operated, and it’s true. Even people who aren’t related feel like family at this point.”
Despite numerous best-of awards and mentions in national magazines, including being hailed by Eater as one of Philly’s “royal families of pie,” that nose-to-the-grindstone mind-set continues. Closed only three days per year, the business looks for other ways to grow, now shipping nationwide and even toying with the idea of a food truck. Even the fourth generation joins in, with Alicia’s six-year-old daughter sporting her own uniform and bringing young guests coloring books and menus. “If anyone has a complaint, we send her over first,” Alicia says, laughing.
Looking ahead, the Santucci family foresees a flourishing future, but Alicia believes the process gets easier with every new location. “Competition is in our blood, and we’re still motivated to grow the brand,” she says. “In a city where everyone takes their food so seriously, we find it rewarding that people choose to spend time here, making memories with their families.”
Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor.