SHADYSIDE - When Dominic DeFelice started DeFelice Bros. Pizza on Sept. 12, 1982, with his brother, T.J., he had no idea he would still be in business 30 years later.
''I started the pizza business so I could save money for photography school. I wanted to be a professional photographer,'' DeFelice said Monday while at his Shadyside store.
It turns out pizza won over photography - a stroke of luck for the many people who are fans of his pan-style pizza.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
DeFelice Bros. Pizza manager Rob Crow, left, and Dominic DeFelice, president of the business, stand inside the Shadyside shop with a fresh pepperoni and cheese pizza.
''We worked at it every day. It became a passion,'' he said, noting his brother, T.J., died last year due to complications from diabetes.
To celebrate the business' 30th anniversary, all DeFelice stores in the Ohio Valley today and Wednesday will offer a large, one-topping pizza at the 1982 price of $6.60. DeFelice owns the shops in Shadyside, St. Clairsville and Weirton, while other shops are franchises including Bethlehem, Follansbee, Wheeling, Martins Ferry and Wintersville. T.J. DeFelice's son, Tony, owns the Moundsville store.
''Several of the franchises are owned by former employees. They started out working for us and ended up owning their own stores,'' DeFelice said.
Before starting his own shop, DeFelice learned to make pizza dough while working at a bakery in Shadyside. He also worked at his sister Jennie Marzella's pizza shop, then called the Pizza Pub.
He noted his dough is made fresh daily. To make the DeFelice pizza crust, the dough is coated with sauce and placed into the oven where it is halfway baked. Then it is taken out of the oven, the toppings are placed on it and the entire dish is placed back into the oven to finish baking.
"It's crunchy on the outside and light and chewy on the inside," he noted.
DeFelice said his mother, Ada, who died in 1996 also of complications from diabetes, and his father, Tony, 88, who is living in the Shadyside Care Center, were very helpful to him and his brother over the years. DeFelice also credits his loyal customers and employees for his business' success.
"I want to thank all of our customers for 30 great years and past and present employees who helped us make it this far," he said.
One employee, Rob Crow, has been with DeFelice since its start.
"It's been good, steady work for me for 30 years," Crow said.
While picking up her pizza at the Shadyside store Monday, customer Fran Palicka Sobray said she has enjoyed DeFelice "as long as it's been open."
"I like the cheesy bread sticks. I like everything, really. I guess it's the dough," she said.
DeFelice said he, too, enjoys everything his shops offer, though he tries not to eat it every day.
"Unfortunately, I like it all," he quipped.
DeFelice Pizza has won various awards during local contests. And in 2005, it won Best Pizza in the USA during a competition in Italy.
DeFelice added T.J. "would have been ecstatic" about celebrating 30 years in business.
"I'm sure he's shining down on us and happy about the anniversary," DeFelice said.