Pizza Oven: Former customer marks over four decades as owner
KINGSFORD — When Eva Gall chased Danny Antonini and his friends out of her restaurant with a broom in the early ’60s, neither had any idea he someday would take over as Pizza Oven owner.
Gall and Pat Goulette started the Pizza Oven more than 60 years ago in a building that once was the fire station at 705 Vulcan St. in Iron Mountain.
“I went up there when I was a kid and had pizza all the time. Eva Gall use to throw us out, take a broom after us,” said Antonini, who admitted he was a bit of a pistol in his day.
Goulette eventually sold her share to Gall and when Gall died, the business was sold to Jimmy and Ann Manno of Chicago. Jimmy eventually passed away as well, and his wife ran the restaurant for another year.
Antonini had been working as a mechanic at the time, running both a gas station and wrecker business. Then, when temporarily between jobs, he decided to make a change.
So Antonini purchased his old hangout from Ann Manno and became the third and current owner of Pizza Oven. It’s now among the oldest pizza establishments in town.
“I always liked to cook, so why not?” he said.
Plus he liked the pepperoni pizza the restaurant made; the sale included all the original recipes.
“We kept the recipe going for many years without changing it, and we try to make a quality product all the time,” Antonini said.
In the mid-1980s, Antonini moved the business to 201 Stephenson Ave. for a short time before again relocating to the current site in the old Summit Dairy building at 221 E. Breitung Ave. in Kingsford.
Although the original recipes have remained, Antonini said they have added many new items over the years, including the popular double-crust pizza that Antonini said came about by accident.
“We were busy one night, and we dumped one pizza on top of the other in the oven. The girl working said, ‘What are we gonna do?’ and I said, ‘Leave it cook, and we will figure out what to do with it.’ We took it out, and we’re eating it and I thought, ‘Say, that’s pretty good.'”
They worked on the recipe a little, rolling up the sides and adding sauce and cheese on top. Now the double crust is a favorite with customers, with its own special Thursday nights.
Antonini said his daughter, Andria McBride, has added a few specialty pizzas to the menu over the years, such as buffalo chicken, mac and cheese and chicken alfredo. The restaurant also serves hot sandwiches such as Italian sausage, chicken parmesan, ham and cheese, barbecue chicken and porketta.
They even sell frozen versions of their pizzas and participate in several fundraisers in the area, including the Kingsford High School music department, Kingsford swim team, and fireworks in Niagara, Wis.
For more information on how to sell frozen Pizza Oven pizzas as a fundraiser, contact Malone at 906-774-6548.
Although Antonini still does the business end of the books, Teresa Malone is the manager running the restaurant. “We make a great pizza,” said Malone adding that people come in from all over the United States for their Pizza Oven fix.
“Everybody that grew up around here stops in for pizza when they come back to visit,” Antonini said.
“And now that we have frozen pizzas, out-of-town customers are taking them back home and parents are bringing pizzas to their children when they go to visit,” Malone said.
Antonini credits a great recipe and good employees for the success of the business. “I’ve had a lot of good people working for me over the years,” he said.