Italian Village Pizza has sold 100 million pizza slices. Yes, you read that right | Pittsburgh City Paper

Italian Village Pizza has sold 100 million pizza slices. Yes, you read that right

click to enlarge Italian Village Pizza has sold 100 million pizza slices. Yes, you read that right
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Tara McBride at Italian Village Trattoria on National Pizza Day, Feb. 9, 2024
At Italian Village Pizza, the consensus is that 100 million is an incomprehensible number.

Yet this month, the family-owned Pittsburgh pizza franchise celebrated selling its 100 millionth slice — for reference, enough pizza to give each of the 13 million people living in Pennsylvania nearly eight slices, or a medium-sized pie.

“It was crazy to sit there and just add up the numbers,” Tara McBride, co-owner and general manager of Italian Village Trattoria, tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “This is astronomical, really, to think about it.”

“That is a lot of slices. That is a lot,” echoes assistant general manager Aimee Symms. “That means there [are] a lot of pizza lovers out there and our pizza’s the best,” she adds proudly.
click to enlarge Italian Village Pizza has sold 100 million pizza slices. Yes, you read that right
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Aimee Symms carries a pizza at Italian Village Trattoria on National Pizza Day, Feb. 9, 2024
Italian Village Pizza reached its 100 million slices milestone after almost 45 years in business.

Founded by Frank Veltri Sr., the pizza shop started in the food court of Century III Mall. Opened shortly after the mall itself in 1980, the pizza spot drew hungry shoppers with a glowing tricolor green, white, and red neon sign mirroring the Italian flag. Veltri Sr. was born in Amantea, Italy in 1955, immigrated to New York City in 1967 where he worked in a Little Italy pizza shop, then brought his recipes and know-how to Pittsburgh.

His concept was New York-style pizza slices — wide slices made with tossed, thin crust that’s pliable enough that they can be folded in half and sold to-go. The slices, of course, are well-known to anyone who wandered malls in their heyday of the 1980s and ‘90s.
click to enlarge Italian Village Pizza has sold 100 million pizza slices. Yes, you read that right
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Owner Frank Veltri II at Italian Village Trattoria, Feb. 9, 2024
Before McBride and Symms knew Veltri Sr. and his son, current co-owner Frank Veltri II, they suspect they’d spotted them decades earlier behind the counter at the Century III food court. Symms worked in the mall at Piercing Pagoda in her early 20s and later treated her kids to Italian Village Pizza.

“The pizza was my favorite,” McBride tells City Paper. “It was always all guys back there … a bunch of guys flipping pizzas.”

The original Italian Village Pizza was Century III’s last food court tenant, holding out as the mall’s business declined, before finally closing in 2017.

In the meantime, the pizza chain grew to 26 stores at its height. Today, it operates 18, managed by family and friends, all in the Pittsburgh area. Veltri II says slices are still central to the restaurant’s concept and all locations maintain a “big slice display,” with the menu still made in-house according his father’s original recipes.

However, the business has expanded beyond the traditional pizza shop, most recently launching Italian Village Trattoria, the chain’s new “home base,” McBride says, and first full-service restaurant and bar. The new location with a dining room offers the signature pizza by the slice alongside made-to-order calzones, hoagies, and full pasta dinners served with in-house sauces.
click to enlarge Italian Village Pizza has sold 100 million pizza slices. Yes, you read that right
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Italian Village Trattoria on National Pizza Day, Feb. 9, 2024
“We’re kind of taking the old Italian Village and bringing it into the new,” McBride says. To open Trattoria, the restaurant expanded from its Waterworks Mall location of 11 years, moving into a larger space in the same shopping center in December 2022.

The 100 million slices calculation came about after “an extremely busy day selling pizza slices” at the new location, McBride says. An employee working the counter asked her how many slices they’d sold that day, and “this got the wheels spinning and we were curious how many slices we sold in the last month, then the last year, and before we knew it, we were digging into the numbers for all of the locations since the 1980s.”

They decided to tie a 100 million slices celebration to National Pizza Day on Feb. 9, offering $1 slices. The restaurant generated buzz with coupons, a KDKA segment, and balloons. In between making deliveries — where he drives his own white Audi with an Italian Village Pizza magnet  — staff member JP Hance also appeared as the restaurant's mascot, Tony Anchovy. Dreamt up by Veltri Sr., the mustachioed mascot with red chef’s hat and green overalls still dons the original 1980s costume from Century III Mall.

By 1p.m., Italian Village Trattoria sold 1,000 slices, with nine hours to go. (McBride says a typical day runs closer to 200.)

One customer came to the restaurant by accident, looking for another location. A New Jersey native, he’d been searching for a New York-style slice up to par for two years.

“It’s like winning the lottery,” he said of the pizza.

Purely for journalistic purposes, CP photographer Mars Johnson and I tried the Sicilian slice — rectangular with a thicker crust — and the original New York-style, respectively.
click to enlarge Italian Village Pizza has sold 100 million pizza slices. Yes, you read that right
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Customers at Italian Village Trattoria on National Pizza Day, Feb. 9, 2024
Selling 100 million pizza slices would be a notable achievement on its own, but I also feel compelled to report that, in a city oversaturated with pizza, my New York slice was immaculate. One bite also instantly transported me back to the mall in “a time before beepers and cell phones,” as Veltri II put it.

“I’m a pizza snob and this is a good grandmother slice,” Mars says of the Sicilian. “It’s soft, tender, and a little chewy, [with] a really nice crunch on the bottom. [And] there's something nostalgic about it, like the best version of high school football pizza.”

Veltri II speculates that the key to lasting nearly 45 years is this kind of consistency.

“Upholding the standard has made it pretty easy,” he tells CP. “We’ve just got to keep our product better than the rest and that seems to be working.”

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