If you feel like Tony’s Pizza in Peckville is one of those restaurants that’s just always been there, you’re not wrong.
The restaurant on Main Street got its start 80 years ago in Jessup. Over the years, they’ve changed locations but their famous pizza — and that sweet sauce that goes on top — has always been priority No. 1. Tony’s Pizza owner Neil DiBlasi Jr. talks about the region’s love of pizza and how he sets Tony’s pizza apart.
Q: You’re one of the oldest pizza shops in the Midvalley. When did you open and how have things changed since then?
A: It all started out in the town of Jessup on the corner of Powell Avenue and Hill Street in the mid 1940s in a place called DiBlasis Bar. It was our homestead where my great grandparents parents, Nello and Anna, along with my grandparents, Tony and Marion, helped run it.
One day the guys, many of whom were coal miners, grew tired of sandwiches (and asked) Marion for something different. And that was it, the sauce was made and so was history. Then in 1948 we opened Tony’s Pizza (in) Chapman Lake and Tony’s Pizza Palace Olyphant. It was beach and bands for many years; families and teen came from all over. This was NEPA’s American band stand.
As for how have things changed, the biggest thing is how much everything costs today. I’ve literally seen my expenses triple over the years and there is not much you can do to offset that. You can only adjust so much because we will not substitute for quality. The other thing is everything is fast paced and throw away. I’m old school, I believe in taking a breath and enjoying the moment. Life’s short.
Q: What are your best sellers?
Our plain pizza with the extra sauce topping is always the crowd favorite but we also have some really popular specialty pizzas. Our Veggie Deluxe is one of them, topped with a colorful assortment of fresh veggies. Our Hotwing pizza is made with fresh chicken breast and covered in our very own wing sauce. Also we have a Bacon Cheeseburger pizza topped with pickles if you like. We offer other favorites like steak n cheese, meatball parm, Hawaiian, The Works and, last but not least, the Boardwalk Pizza. That’s a totally different style pizza; if you want something different, this is the one.
Q: Why do you think pizza is such a popular food in Northeastern Pennsylvania? What sets your pizza apart from other restaurants?
A: NEPA is the go-to area for pizza and I mean the whole area, not just one town. We are so lucky to have so many choices to choose from, many different styles and so many different tastes. The whole family can eat while not breaking the bank. I see many people stop in here and tell me they made a few stops along the way, that’s the beauty of this area.
As for what sets us apart, (it) is absolutely our sauce. There is nothing like it around. It’s sweet but yet complex. There is a lot that goes into it. We make it fresh every day. You really would have to try it to understand what it’s like to “get Sauced!”
Q: What’s new on your menu? Have you ever gotten any strange requests for pizza toppings?
A: Our Boardwalk pizza is our new one. We wanted something totally different! It’s actually a 180 from our original style but the same quality you would expect from Tony’s. We start out with a square shell with a hint of olive oil then add our special sauce. Cover it with a blend of five different Italian cheeses along with a sprinkle of Italian seasonings then finish it off with Parmesan and Romano. The reviews on this pizza are outstanding. Give it a try ... The strangest pizza was when a little kid came in our shop and wanted me to draw on a pizza for him as we have done many times over the years. But this time, he had a baseball card (and wanted) me to draw the whole picture. Not wanting to let him dow, let’s just I did my best! To this day, we draw and write just about anything you can imagine on our pizzas.
Q: When you’re not making pizza, what do you like to do to relax?
A: The pizza shop takes a lot more time than most think. Even when you’re not there, you still feel like you are. The worries never end! As for do I do to relax, I wouldn’t be able if it weren’t for my family. They all help out. We all work together as we enter into our fifth generation of pizza makers, which allows me to take a ride in one of my hot rods when I get the chance.