About Nancy's Pizza®
It has often been said that the American success story is based on inventing and introducing a product for which the public has been waiting. Of all the new food products, in recent years, where true innovation has occurred, none is more wonderful than the invention of a new American staple - stuffed pizza!
The invention and success of the stuffed pizza is the story of Nancy and Rocco Palese. They had lived most of their adult lives in Turin, Italy before immigrating with their three children from Potenza to the United States, in 1969.
After 18 months in Chicago, Nancy and Rocco opened their first pizza parlor, Guy's Pizza, featuring the then popular thin crust pizza. Business had its ups and downs, and friends tried to get the Palese's to experiment with pan pizza. Rather than imitate, in 1971, Rocco decided to introduce his own pizza, modeled after his family’s recipe for "scarciedda," an Easter specialty cake. He visited Potenza and secured his mother's recipe.
Rocco began experimenting with his new pizza, trying to perfect its marketability. He went into a solo business, then a partnership, then again tried it on his own before the right combination of circumstances brought to him, to Nancy’s Pizza® and to stuffed pizza, fabulous success.
The time, place and product were finally right when Rocco opened his new pizza restaurant in Harwood Heights. The new location was named Nancy’s Pizza® after Rocco's wife (Annunziata) and was dedicated to the preparation of Italian food, pastas, thin pizza and of course serving his new stuffed pizza.
Nancy’s Pizza® had a seating capacity of only 35 people when it opened. Within six months, Rocco had to begin the first of a series of expansions, which eventually increased the restaurant's capacity to 140 people. This was especially necessary after the 1975 rating of Nancy’s Pizza® by Chicago Magazine as, "The Best Pizza in Chicago."
As the restaurant prospered and became widely known, the Palese’s decided to open another Nancy’s Pizza® in Elmhurst, Illinois, with a partner Vince Lombardo.
In 1978, Nancy and Rocco sold their original restaurant in Harwood Heights, Illinois to finance their new and greatly expanded location at 4256 N. Central Avenue in Chicago. Shortly after this, in 1978, the Palese family sold the Central Avenue location. The Palese’s went on to open Nancy’s Pizza® in Des Plaines. Once again in 1979, Chicago Magazine chose Nancy’s Pizza® as "The Best Stuffed Pizza in Chicago."
In June of 1982, ABC-TV's People's Choice Poll chose Nancy’s Pizza® as the maker of the "Best Pizza in Chicago." In 1984, the Chicago Tribune chose Nancy’s Pizza® as the "Best Stuffed Pizza in Chicago," and in April of 1987 chose a Dave Howey owned Nancy’s Pizza® as the maker of "The Best Fettuccine Alfredo in Chicago."
This most recent award recognized Nancy’s Pizza® as a great Italian "dinner house" as well as one of Chicago's finest pizzerias. The 1987 Chicago Tribune Pasta Challenge involved 12 of Chicago's finest Italian restaurants including Nancy’s Pizza®, Pronto, Avanzare and nine others.
In 1989, the Best of the Burbs" sponsored by 108 FM radio chose Nancy’s Pizza® for the “Burbs Best Italian Food.”
In 1991-92, the Entertainment Publications sponsored a citywide survey and again Nancy’s Pizza® was chosen the "Best by Far" pizza in Chicago and its suburbs.
The significance of these ratings and polls is in the marketplace in which they have occurred. Chicago has always been considered the "toughest" pizza market in the world, with more pizzerias per capita then any other Major City. It is truly a remarkable achievement to be considered "Chicago's Best," so often.
In 1990, the name Nancy’s Pizza® and all development rights were purchased from the Palese’s. Dave Howey, the president of Chicago Franchise Systems, Inc., was a licensee of the Palese’s since 1977. The expertise he developed over those years was instrumental in his development of a unified concept for the Nancy’s Pizza® products to be more consistently offered to the public.
From 1974 to 1992, eighteen years, Nancy’s Pizza® represented great food. By 1992 with the opening of the first "proto-type" Nancy’s Pizza® Express at 7929 West 171st Street in Tinley Park, Illinois, Nancy’s Pizza® became not just about great pizza and great Italian food, it now became a great business opportunity.
There are now dozens of Nancy’s Pizza® locations in the Chicagoland area as well as restaurants in Georgia, and Indiana. As Nancy’s Pizza® continues to expand, our commitment to the same award winning food quality and business excellence will never change.