Fricano’s Pizza Tavern
Even his mother doubted people would pay good money for this thing called “pizza,” but Gus Fricano persisted—and gained a bona fide cult following.
In the early 1950s, tavern owner Cosimo Fricano (known as Gus) decided that his menu needed a boost. After seeing a sign that advertised something called “pizza” near Wrigley Field in Chicago, he returned home determined to introduce this new item in his own business. Initially, though, it met with little enthusiasm from those around him, including his Sicilian mother, who said, “Americans are wealthy—they want steak. Pizza is for paupers!” In fact, few people in Michigan had even heard of pizza at the time. “People’s concept of pizza was nonexistent at this point,” says Doug Fricano, Gus’ son, recalling the original Fricano’s Pizza Tavern (www.fricanospizza.com) opening in Grand Haven, Michigan. “No one knew what it was. They didn’t even know how to pronounce the word.”
During the pizzeria’s first few years, Gus gave away more pies than he sold. He brought them by the armload to hand out to tourists on the beach, but people were generally confused about the new creation. Eventually, however, word began to spread, and in 1976 Gus sold more than 1,000 pizzas in one night. That same year, Fricano’s opened a second location, in Kalamazoo; today, five locations exist, and all are still family-run.
The pizza here is charmingly set in its ways: Only five toppings are available on these thin-crust, charred-edge pies; they’re cut with scissors instead of traditional pizza cutters; and only one size (12”) is offered. The formula obviously entices the hoards of Fricano’s fans that fill the lines which snake out the door on most nights. Doug says it’s common for the Grand Haven location to sell 800 pies in one night—no small feat, considering the town’s modest population (about 10,000).
“We’re simple folk,” Doug says. “For us, it’s not about how big we get, but about maintaining the integrity of what we already have.” —Tracy Morin
The worst part about moving away from Grand Haven is that you can’t get Fricano’s. A family tradition and the only place to buy pizza.
My name is Brian Gahsman and my father, Dan Gahsman, raised me on this pizza. I am now a hedge fund manager living in downtown Minneapolis and I may just move back to Grand Haven just to have this pizza on tap.
amen!!!!!!!!! I hope you see this cuz! I miss this pizza and family time!
Fricano’s Pizza Tavern is a truly an amazing Pizza Parlor. This Pizza was voted the best pizza in Michigan. Pure Michigan, Michigan’s official Travel & Tourism site, in 2011 announced that Fricano’s Pizza was the winner of its unofficial poll. The place is such an incredible institution that everybody needs to hear the story. Just reading the thousands of comments from their 15,000 Facebook fans is an amazing and heartwarming experience. The incredible taste has compelled a vast number of people to travel over 100 miles sometimes weekly to get their fix. It has been called “The Crown Jewel of pizza parlors” for good reason.
Fricano’s is the best pizza hands down! I remember going there when I was young with my grandparents. I truly miss it since I moved across the state. When I visit my family, I try to always make a stop at one of the locations.
The best pizza on this continent. Love it so . We live in Florida and miss it. I was born and raised in grand Haven and miss that pizza pie.
A great family place – we’ve had many, many celebrations there
Fricanos was an absolutely iconic piece of my childhood. I have still to this day never had a pizza that could even compare to their pies. Perfectly spiced, absolutely no extra crust, just an edge made of perfectly toasted cheese. Every pie is a hand-crafted, delicious masterpiece and I find myself craving it every time I even think of pizza. I’d gladly take a single slice of plain cheese Fricanos over an entire pie from anywhere else.
I have known Fricano’s longer than I have known my husband. I lived in Grand Haven in the mid 1960’s and worked at Gardner-Denver which wasn’t too far away….sooooo, quick and easy + delicious lunch! I fell in love with this “new” lunch. I’ve been back loads of times, but it had to quit when I met and married John. We moved north and Fricano’s didn’t. I’m back in the local area and now Fricano’s has expanded into Muskegon so as soon as I can,….I’ll Be Back!!
Gram Fricano was amazing. We also need to mention partner to Gus, Tom Fricano, and mom, Gen, and Aunt Pauline , sisters who also were critical to the success. Fond memories of all of them and great pizza still today!
Teddy – We love to come to your place for pizza and to party! You always make us feel so special – we love your pizzas and you too! Yvonne
We have lived out-of-state for over 35 years, but anytime we return to visit family, Fricano’s is on our itinerary! The best!
I have been living in S. America, Colombia….for five years, but seeing this Fricano blog just makes my mouth wáter, and my eyes weep for a Fricanos. Gus was a great guy also.
My whole family is totally in love with your pizza. Whenever my children,who live out of town, come home to visit – you are a must go to place!
I have to agree that leaving Grand Haven was hard but even harder was no Fricano’s. No matter where we lived, if people were coming to visit us from GH, they knew they had better bring a PIZZA. And we never flew back to Alaska without at least one pizza in my carry on. My sisters even had 6 pizza sent to us in Georgia. We had a wonderful birthday celebration! I’m looking forward to Fricano’s this summer. Family knows if we are coming to GH, they can see us at Fricanio’s before we even unpack.
The 9th wonder of the world! Our family has been enjoying Fricano’s Pizza for decades and alway will!
I haven’t ever been to Fricano’s, and already its the best pizza i’ve ever had. We ordered if for my mother’s funeral and put one pie in her casket so she could enjoy it on her next journey. Once my brother-in-law ate half a Fricano’s pizza and hallucinated for 4 days. He and Jerry Garcia fed Fricano’s to each other while jamming on “Truckin.” What a long strange trip it was.
I am a pizza fanatic and have eaten at well over 100 pizza places including at Fricano’s Pizza weekly. This amazing pie is orders of magnitude better than any other pizza.
Best pizza ever! Always a treat to have it when I visit GH.
When, standing in front of those hot ovens baking pizzas and dealing with the management and staff at the original Fricano’s location in Grand Haven, Michigan, it didn’t take long to feel and be a part of the pride of giving the people of West Michigan a quality product. Although it was hard work, I’m glad I was part of the history and heritage that is Fricano’s for over 3 years. When given the opportunity to once again after 20 years to work in that kitchen that hasn’t really changed brought back all the wonderful memories. Fricano’s is the personification of what a great pizza joint that is uniquely American.
My grandfather Don Van Dyke ate Fricano’s pizza every Friday night, from the opening of the pizza tavern until the day he died. We were raised on it. I live in Wisconsin, and have since I was a boy, but I still have family in Michigan, and Fricano’s is the first meal I have, whenever I go there to visit. There is nothing like it in the world. When the ancient Greeks spoke of Ambrosia, they were, without a doubt, referring to Fricano’s EBA (everything but anchovies). It truly is the food of the gods.
Finally took my office here in Alamo, MI to taste this delicious pizza. They are hooked now. Grew up in Muskegon and would frequently go to Grand Haven for the pizza. Waiting in the line that wrapped around the corner was not a problem for finally getting this wonderful pizza!
I grew up on the block where Fricano’s is located in Grand Haven. The senior Fricano’s lived on the street behind our house. Some times on Friday or Saturday nights, we neighborhood kids would sit out back on the steps of the kitchen and Mr Gus would make sure we got a couple of pizzas that didn’t meet his specs — and many that did! Mr Gus was a great friend to all of us. His annual pizza party for the high school football team was reason enough to go out for football! FRICANO’S … Great pizza and even better neighbors and friends. Rgh
My now husband, then boyfriend, took me to the Grand Haven Fricano’s for pizza on one of our first dates, with the WARNING..”don’t expect anything fancy”. Oh my gosh, I fell in love with the pizza and with him. It was the perfect pizza and the perfect date. 27 years later, it’s still my favorite pizza and he is still my favorite man!!
We’re going in two weeks! Taking ths SS Badger to get there. It’s been several years, can’t wait.
,y family has been going to the GHFricano’s since it opened. Many stories:
1/. To make it a complete meal, we always bring a salad. They Welcome this, and normally clean the bowl afterwards.
2/. We once did a “pizza tasting” at Fricano’s with pizzas purchased at all other pizza places in town, but tasted at Fricano’s. They did not mind. As Gus said, “we know who will wi e is, but we also are selling the beer!”
3/. When my brother and I were little kids, we did not like it (I know… Hard to believe). My parents would take us, nonetheless, with hamburgers, French fries, milk, and of course the salad we always had. No problem. Tom Fricano’s laughed about it once, telling my parents “your boys will mature, someday.”
4/. The day of the wake for my mother, at the family home in Spring Lake, we had anticipated about 150 people coming through. We badly under-estimated. When we were about to run out of food, the front door opened, and someone was delivering about 20 pizzas from Fricano’s! Perfect timing, and perfect addition to the evening. We never learned who thought of it, or paid for it, but I suspect,it was Cindy Fricano.
5/. I know some people who have visited every Fricano restaurant. They are all a bit different, some with menus with a wide selection of food, but all with the same pizza recipe. Those people are writing a review of the experience, and it will appear anonymously soon. No worries. All of the restaurants scored well.
5/. My partner, from Germany, makes me take him from the airport directly to Fricano’s in Grand Haven, whenever he arrives. He has been known to take half-baked pies back with him.
If you have not been to Fricano’s, go. Especially to GH. Take a salad.
You will either love this pizza, or…not. Most of the people I know dream of it.
My first ever visit to Fricano’s was in 1987, my boyfriend brought me. We are now married and we have spent every wedding anniversary celebrating at Fricano’s we always order more than we can eat so that we can take home the leftovers ! Love this pizza, it is the best in the nation!
Fricano’s pizza is a Rite of passage in our family. Birthdays, anniversaries, or just for a great night out. I have been going here since I sat in their metal high chairs. Just thinking about an EBA (everything but anchovies) makes my mouth water. There is nothing better than the anticipation of their delicious pizza as you are standing outside, waiting in line for a table while pickup pizzas are carried past you and the door opens and you are hit with the incredible smell. Mmm. We order an extra pizza just to have leftovers. I love that the Grand Haven location hasn’t changed at all. No glitz, no glamour, no fads. Just awesome pizza.
It’s OLD and we are still Loving IT!!!
In 1964 when I was 11 years old, I was in the GH hospital for 6 weeks with a broken leg. Tony Fricano (Tom & Gus’s brother I believe, who was a good bit older than me) was in there too, down the hall from me. One night Abbot & Costello meet Frankenstein was on the 11:00 movie. Tony convinced the nurses that he and I should stay up to watch it, and came dragging his blanket down the hall at 10:55.
A little after midnight (after the bar closed I suspect), Tom showed up with pizza…the first one I ever had. Fifty two years later, Fricano’s is always on my agenda in the first few nights whenever I come to Grand Haven.
Greasy doesn’t even come close. I’m from Chicago and Michigan doesn’t know pizza.
I’m from Chicago too and despite that fact, my cousins make some of the best I’ve ever tasted. They keep it simple and sublime.
I’ve had pizza all over the world, and a lot of it! Fricanos pizza is the best pizza in the world. It is an absolute must for anyone who loves pizza. This place is Graceland for pizza.
I had my first Fricano’s pizza in 1956 and have been hooked since then! Thursday night was alway pizza night so, after picking up hamburgers and fries from Ray’s for the two little ones, it was pizza for the rest! Tom and Gus always got a laugh out of that and Gus always had a joke to share! Great memories! Still love Fricano’s pizza….it’s the best!
My first stop when I come home- I want a Fricanos in California!
I live in Arizona, but grew up in Grand Rapids. My cousins had a cottage in Grandhaven. As a kid my fondest memories is Friday nights at the cottage having Fricanos pizza. This is where I learned to love anchovies on my pizza. Every time I’m in Michigan, I crave Fricanos.
The year Fricanos introduced pizza was 1949.
Ordering just one isn’t enough. I order 3 to 5 half-baked to go, freeze them. They make the freezer a pleasant place to open up to, with the Fricano’s aroma. They get devoured quickly. I have had many pizzas from many places around the world, and nothing compares with this one. The fact that they stick to what they know, and to the original is what draws the crowds in.
Best pizza ever! Make it a vacation destination.
I am in AZ for the winter and reading some of these comments makes my mouth water for this pizza. It is the best. Friends introduced us to it many years ago in Grand Haven. We made many trips with them there on a Sat. Night. We live South of Caledonia MI now which has a Fricanos. Go there a lot with friends and family.
This pizza is so special, unique and unbelievably addictive!
Lots of fond memories of Fricano’s having grown up in Grand Haven. My entire family ate their at least once a week, it was a family staple! My cousins and I would race to see who could finish a whole pizza first. Every time we had relatives or friends visit, it was the top of the agenda.
One of my earliest memories is of the glass cased carriage model in the corner, as a kid I wanted so much to play with it.
The pizza is always awesome band the staff always treated (and still treat) us as family! Every time we visit Grand Haven/Grand Rapids/Muskegon we either dine in and/or take-out at least a half dozen pizzas for “later” since we now live in Northern Michigan.
Only complaint: no long distance delivery…lol
I love this pizza my favorite! My dad loved it too his favorite too ! I can’t say enough about their Pizza it is the best! Thank you !
Fricano’s Pizza, especially from the original Grand Haven location, is perhaps one of the most divisive for a I can think of.
Early in my life, I couldn’t stand the bitter, burned, cardboard pizza, but the smell eventually won me over, and I discovered the EBA, then the EBA+Extra Sausage that is my favorite today.
My father always loved the pizza, and gift certificates were always given for our extended-family Christmas parties.
Fridays would become our “pizza night” and glass bottles of Diet Pepsi, and Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls became common through my childhood.
While other pizzas certainly have different flavors, textures, and purposes, Fricano’s Pizza with it’s limited toppings, single size, bird-seed seasoning, and burned edges has a special place in my heart (and belly.)
My family has been going to Fricano’s for over 50 years. It is our favorite pizza.Many great memories of our times eating there with family and friends. I remember standing in line outside while the rest of the family was in the car till I would get inside. Well worth effort for a Saturday night pizza and my favorite breakfast cold Sunday morning Fricano’s pizza!!!!! Thanks Gus
Our family too has been eating at Fricanos for 50 years. I can say that I have eaten more Fricanos pizzas than any other pizza in the world! Gus would always take care of my folks on their anniversary which is when rhey would take out us 15 children and our spouses for pizza! Thank you Gus! And thanks for passing this gift to your children!
Best, damn pizza in the world, hands down. I’ve had pizza in France and Italy and most every state in the US. They all pale in comparison to my “go to” well done EBA! It is simply the best! Wish I lived in Michigan now but had to give up Fricano pizza for year round sunshine in Florida. Hi to Phil, Doug, Mike and Ted and of course Tom. So sorry about losing Gus a number of years back. Keep rolling that dough and making those marvelously magnificent pies! I’ll send you my address and you can ship me some half backed.,……or hard delivery in exchange for a golf lesson or two!!
I had never tried Fricano’s pizza until I started working there in April of 1988. Ater I 1st tried it; I fell in love. Fricano’s is by far the BEST pizza in the U.S.
Started going there with my parents in the 60’s, and have never had any better pizza, Anywhere!!!
I own a pizza place not far from Fricano’s Muskegon and i still have my cravings for a good Fricanos Everything pie! Great job and great business!
I have loved the taste of Fricano’s pizza since 1960. There is no other pizza like it! I introduced my youngest son to Fricano’s when he was about eight years old. Just the two of us would sit at the bar and Doug would make him feel like a king. My sister n would always order a kiddie cocktail. Fast forward to about 2008 when he was home from the U.S. Army. We were at the restaurant and he wanted a kiddie cocktail but didn’t want to call it that since he was a grown man. So when the waitress came to the table he ordered a 7-up and grenadine. The waitress the said “oh, you want a kiddie cocktail.” Being a little embarrassed he answered yes. From that day on whenever he is in town he orders a kiddie cocktail.
Fricano’s is the first and last stop whenever I visit Holland. Had the first Fricano’s in about 1955!