Pizza In North Ogden Utah – Tina Sanches, daughter of Tony Toscano, with the same Tony’s Combo pizza, the same Tony’s sign that has been there for almost 59 years.
When I wrote a Standard-Examiner story about Tony’s Pizza, an Ogden mainstay since 1963, I dug into the history of pizza in Northern Utah.
Pizza In North Ogden Utah
According to food historians, the “pizza pie” was mostly confined to Italian-American neighborhoods before World War II. As American soldiers stationed in Italy returned home after meals eaten overseas, local pizzerias began popping up across America.
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Next came the restaurant chains. Little Caesars was founded in 1957, Pizza Hut in 1958, and Domino’s in 1960.
I cannot document which restaurant served the first pizzas in Ogden. But I found out that Tony’s didn’t open in October 1963.
One of the pioneers of Ogden pizza was Rigo Del Carlo, owner of Rigo’s Restaurant at 2778 Washington Blvd. (My brother-in-law, Wynn Phillips, worked there as a teenager.) According to an old Standard-Examiner ad, Rigo was from Italy and was held as a prisoner of war near Hanover, Germany, during World War II. After his release, he emigrated to America and arrived in Utah in 1948.
“I arrived in Ogden at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday,” Del Carlo said in the ad. “I looked for a job on Monday and got a job with the Southern Pacific Railroad. I worked with the picking and shoveling railway gang.”
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A few months later, Del Carlo took a job at the Continental Baking Company on Grant Avenue in the Wonder Bread department. He held the position of Wonderbrood for five years before starting his own restaurant in 1954.
There’s also a 1957 ad promoting the restaurant’s pizza and a Standard-Examiner report mentioning its private club, La Gabbia, which opened in 1967. According to the article, he apparently ran the food service at the Ben Lomond Hotel, at least for a while. .
Rigo Del Carlo and his restaurant are long gone, but my brother-in-law Wynn Phillips worked there as a teenager from 1959-1961. As I understand it, Rigo has had an impact on Ogden’s dining scene.
“Well, I’m here to tell you we had pizza!” Wynn said. – Actually, in 1959 I delivered boxed pizzas in the evenings and on weekends. Then in 1960-1961 I moved into the kitchen and mixed, prepared and cooked hundreds of pizzas. I’ve had scars on my hands for years from spatula burns to buy pizza tonight. The pizza was served with a salad (oil and vinegar sauce) which was very good. I also made a salad and dressing.
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Circle Inn Pizzeria in Clearfield (recently destroyed in a fire), opened in 1957. Fredrico’s restaurant opened in Logan in 1958. Further south, Heaps A Pizza, the predecessor to Brick Oven, opened in Provo in 1956. Some old-timers in Salt Lake City remember the Ratskeller, Gepetto’s, and Pipes and Pizza. None of them are working today.
I remember going to Pipes and Pizza when I was in high school in the early 70’s. There were long picnic tables where people sat and ate, old black and white silent movies played, and an organ played. This was quite a novelty at the time.
Who were the other pizza pioneers in Ogden? For more information, I searched – where else – Facebook. The Ogden Boomers Reunion page brought back several memories.
Palmieri’s, another Italian-American restaurant on Washington Blvd., apparently north of 25th Street, was mentioned by someone who worked there in the late 1950s.
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Several mentioned Paisano’s in the 1930s and Grant’s, founded by Ernest Durbano, who cooked there with his mother, Carmela. According to Durbano’s 2000 obituary, he also founded Durbano Warehousing, Durbano Metals of Ogden and America West Bank in Layton. He was a commissioner of the Utah State Liquor Control Commission. I couldn’t find documentation of when Paisano opened, but his obituary says he was stationed in Germany with the Air Force in 1952. He was head of air traffic control and then the control tower in Ogden before going into business. So my best guess is that he opened Paisano’s in the early 1960s. One commenter said he cleaned a restaurant for Ernie around 1967.
I remember going to Paisano on a date around 1980-81 because it was the first time I tried souvlaki, so I know it was still around then.
Some other former Ogden pizza joints mentioned by Facebook commenters: Ye Old Pizza at 32nd and Washington (poster remembers going there in 1964 and listening to the organist), Piccolo Bros Pizza, Shakey’s (chain at 36th and in Riverdale), Zeb’s at 421 Washington Blvd., Grizzly Bear and Big Bear Pizza. I remember going to the Godfather chain a few times in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
In 2017, Piccolo Bros Pizza announced on Facebook that it was closing “after more than 40 years”. If we do the math, it would probably have been opened sometime around 1977.
If you have more precise information about early pizza in Ogden, please write to me at the end of the article. I would like to add any historical tidbits to keep the record as simple as possible.
Several people mentioned the Ogden Pizzeria on Washington Blvd., which is still in business. A few years ago I interviewed the owners, Valerie and Pat Simonich. They said they used the same classic pasta and sauce recipes as when Valerie’s mother, Jean Alder, first worked there as a teenager for owner Jay Packham. In 1974 Jean and her husband Doug Alder purchased the land from Packham and managed it until Valerie and Pat Simonich bought it from her parents. A portrait of his parents hangs on the wall at the entrance to the restaurant.
A 2014 photo of Pat and Valerie Simonich next to a photo of Valerie’s parents, Doug and Jean Alder, who bought the Ogden pizzeria in 1974. photo: Valerie Phillips
Tina Sanchez, daughter of Tony Toscano, who currently operates Tony’s Pizza, noted that at one time there was a Pizza Hut across from Tony’s. “But we’re still here and they’re not,” he said.
Tony’s has kept the same menu all these years. You won’t find fancy stuff like BBQ chicken, cauliflower crust, or truffle oil.
“Our menu is the same as the first day, we haven’t added or taken away from it,” Sanchez noted. “If it ain’t broke, you ain’t gonna fix it.”
Black olive and pineapple are the only two toppings on the original menu due to customer demand.
“When I see restaurants with many sides of the menu, I wonder, how do you eat so much food and keep it fresh?” Sanchez said. “With a small menu, we can keep our quality high and our prices low, because we have no waste.”
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The pizza menu is simple. You can order plain cheese or Tony’s Combo, or choose from a list of classic toppings such as hot peppers, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, ham, pineapple, ground beef, green and black olives, and Italian sausage. Anchovies, shrimp and jalapeños cost a little extra.
Tony’s Combo is the best seller – thin crust with hot peppers, sausage, ham, mushrooms, green peppers and green olives. Those green olives are Tony’s tradition.
“There’s always been green olives on pizza. People either like them or they don’t,” Sanchez said.
The meatball sandwich has been a favorite of the four hot sandwiches offered at Tony’s Pizza since 1963. Photo: Valerie Phillips
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There are also four pastas – rigatoni is the best seller of the bunch. Either can be served with a simple iceberg lettuce salad with the same homemade Italian dressing they’ve been serving for years. No other toppings are offered, so don’t bother farming.
Tony’s Story (from his daughter Tina): Founder Tony Tuscan grew up in Ogden. His parents, Philip and Anna Toscano, both emigrated from Italy. They met and married in Ogden.
“They dropped the ‘o’ from their last name when Tony and his brother went to school, I don’t know why. Maybe to fit in better,” Sanchez said.
When Toscan opened the restaurant, he was working as a salesman at the Swift meat processing plant. At first, he kept his day job and ran the restaurant after work, so it was only open for dinner. Tony’s mother made a quart of her unique spaghetti sauce every day, and Tony picked it up from her on his way to work.
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His wife, Carolyn, and his mother, Bobby Thomas, were the two servers, and his partner helped run the kitchen. Over the years, the restaurant has tripled its original size. Toscan first leased and then purchased the building.
After college, she taught school and continued to work part-time at Tony’s. About 25 years ago, he took a year off from teaching to help his father
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