A business-savvy Greek immigrant joined the Greeley, Colorado, town council to build a name for his new pizzeria before handing it off to a longtime employee.
Following a foray into the restaurant business in Superior, Wisconsin, Fonta Fafoutis relocated to Greeley, Colorado, and jumped into the pizza game, opening Fontas Pizza in 1966. To drum up business, he doled out free samples and even joined the city council to establish his name in town, making the pizzeria a fast success. By 1979, following the community’s development, the downtown location moved south, where the business remains today, in a 3,200-square-foot building with seating for 120.
Current owner Troy Dilka started as a cook in 1985, taking the reins in 1994 when Fafoutis was ready to retire; Troy’s wife, Tracy, joined the team in 1999. However, Fafoutis remained a fixture at the business. “It was his baby, so he’d still come down every day, saying he was bored,” Troy recalls with a laugh. “Until the restaurant was paid off, he’d come down and bring our spices for the sauce, sausage and beef in paper bags.” Finally, Fafoutis sat down with the couple at a special meeting and divulged the secret spice recipe.
With Troy’s insistence on keeping everything the same at Fontas, he notes that many customers weren’t even aware the business had changed hands for years. But the Dilkas have introduced fun Facebook contests, like voting for the best pie maker at the pizzeria, and popular specials, including the Wednesday 23-25: a large two-topping pizza and two pints of beer for $23 (or $25 with salad). They’ve also brainstormed unique specialty pies like the Hercules, with beef, green chilies, cream cheese, cashews, and pineapple. “We stick with what’s working for us,” Troy says. “We focus on family, which was a big deal for Fonta—both his family and others’—and a good product and service.”
A painstaking approach continues to pay off for Fontas, which was voted best pizza in town this year in the Greeley Tribune. The pizzeria also spreads the word—and gives back—via events like the Taste of Weld County, which benefits local charities, and the RecFest at the local university, which introduces its pizza to hungry students. “Fonta’s drive and passion for pizza is what made him successful,” Troy concludes. “Our consistency is key, so one of us is there at all times to make sure everything is up to par. We think it’s important to be hands-on and ensure you’re making something you’re proud of.”