Starting with a family patriarch who served flatbreads to Al Capone in the 1920s, this Illinois-based pizzeria has grown to nearly 200 locations in 14 states.

rosatis-familyAs with many Italian families, the Rosati clan’s roots run deep. In the 1920s, Italian emigrant Silvario Rosati served Pizza A’Olia—a flatbread with garlic and oil—as a pre-meal treat for customers like Al Capone. His son, Sam, also opened a successful restaurant, and when third-generation Dick Rosati returned from the war, he decided to dive head-first into the pizza biz, opening Rosati’s Pizza ( in 1964 in Mount Prospect, Illinois. “The entire family worked in the store, day and night—all of the brothers and sisters, plus their spouses,” explains Marla Topliff, president of Rosati’s Pizza, headquartered in Elgin, Illinois. “Pizza wasn’t as well-known then, so people would actually come in requesting apple pies, not pizza pies.”

As a carryout operation and a pioneer in the fledgling concept of delivery, Rosati’s offered impressive variety, with three crusts (thin, Double Dough and Chicago-style), plus entrées like rib dinners and pastas. And with the family name already ingrained in the area, Rosati’s took off. Employees soon wanted to start their own locations, leading to expansion that grew organically for 40 years; in 2005, the 60-location business officially decided to franchise. Today, the pizzeria counts almost 200 locations in 14 states and even bottles its own wine—perfect for its newest concept, Rosati’s Pizza Pub, which offers dine-in service in a family-friendly atmosphere.

To control franchise quality, the business private-labels its ingredients, distributes recipe books and regularly routes operations staff to locations. They also handle graphic design, social media and catering promotions in-house. “We’re a family business—still owned by the Rosati family—and we consider our franchisees as part of that family,” Topliff says. “We call them often and let them know we’re here for them; we know all of them by name.”

Topliff believes those family values—and working to give back as a neighborhood pizzeria in its communities—are intrinsic to the Rosati’s success story, which includes a spot on Entrepreneur‘s Franchise 500. To celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014, Rosati’s promoted an all-expense-paid trip to Naples. Food prizes, domestic air tickets, and branded hats and T-shirts were also up for grabs. “The Rosatis are an amazing family to work for, and it shows in their pizza, product and franchisees,” Topliff concludes. “They’re fiercely loyal to quality and their customers. They just want to keep spreading that love to others.” —Tracy Morin


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