(Pizza Guy note: be sure and read the comments to this post for some updated information on this topic.)
In the course of doing this blog, I’ve been to some pizzerias dating back to the 1970s and even ’60s, and I got to wondering - what’s the oldest pizzeria in Rochester? So one afternoon I stopped by the Central Library downtown to do a little research among the old city directories.
Supposedly pizza’s widespread popularity in this country dates to the post-WWII years, with the return of GIs who had discovered it while serving in Italy. By the 1950s, it was enough of an American staple to show up on popular sitcoms like the Honeymooners, though it also took some pretty bizarre forms in those days (tuna pizza, anyone?)
So I started with the 1950 directory. No business heading for pizzerias - no surprise there - and none of the restaurant listings mentioned pizza, either. That’s not to say that pizza wasn’t served at any local Italian restaurants, but there’s no evidence of it from the 1950 directory.
Moving forward, the first place calling itself a pizzeria, by the name of Giuseppe’s, shows up in 1954, at 324 Lake Ave. I doubt if the building's even there today. Now there is currently a Giuseppe’s in Gates, and they do serve pizza, but at this point I don’t know if there’s any connection. The Giuseppe's website claims that Giuseppe's was "est. 1927," but it doesn't provide any detailed history.
The year 1958 brings us a Perri’s Pizza at 1899 East Main St., which now is the address of Main Place Tavern. Again, there are a few Perri’s in existence today, but can they trace their lineage back that far? I don’t know. The Perri’s website has a “Perri’s History” link, but it’s one of those “Coming Soon!” pages (why is it that when a web page says “Coming Soon!” you know that it’s not coming anytime soon?).
The first mention of a pizzeria that I’m sure is still in existence comes in 1961: Pontillo’s, at 3194 Lake Ave., an address that, according to Google, today is that of a vacant movie theater. Pontillo’s started out in Batavia in 1947 - unfortunately the original location closed a while back, due to unpaid taxes, I believe, though the building’s still there, vacant - so within 14 years Pontillo’s had reached Rochester, making it perhaps the first local pizza chain, if not the first Rochester pizzeria.
Also of note, Amico Pizza appears on Waring Rd. in 1965. Amico is now located on E. Ridge Rd. in Irondequoit, and it’s still in the family. Their website says that Amico Pizza was founded in 1962, but the first listing for it I could find in the directory was in 1965.
There’s also a mid-1960s listing for a Proietti’s Pizzeria at 1717 N. Goodman (where today you’ll find an insurance office), and these days Proietti’s Restaurant in Webster does serve pizza. Again, the connection, if any, is unclear to me as of now.
Finally, the year 1965 also brought us Mama Taccone’s at 495 Monroe Ave., the present-day address of Acme Bar & Pizza. I remember Mama Taccone’s, which closed in the early '90s, I'd guess, and this reminded me of the likely reason why Acme has always served pizza - it inherited the pizza ovens from Mama Taccone's.
So here’s how things stand right now: (1) Giuseppe’s, or Perri’s, might be able to lay claim to the title of oldest existing pizza purveyor in Rochester, but their connection to the originals by those names is not established. (2) If they’re not the oldest, then Pontillo’s is. They date back in Rochester to 1961. (3) Barring any claims by Giuseppe's or Perri's, the oldest family-run pizzeria originating in Rochester appears to be Amico. Proietti’s may be in the mix as well - again, the connection is uncertain - though today Proietti’s is a full-service restaurant rather than a pizzeria. (4) The geographical location with the longest history of serving pizza seems to be Acme.
When I have time, I’ll try to follow up on some of these leads with the current owners of some of the places mentioned. In the meantime, if anybody can shed any additional light or has any memories to share, please do.