- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - In a March 15 member exchange about a restaurant being inducted into a Pizza Hall of Fame, The Associated Press, retransmitting a story by the Kokomo Tribune, misidentified the magazine that created the hall. It is PMQ Pizza Magazine, not PMZ Pizza Magazine.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Kokomo restaurant inducted into Pizza Hall of Fame

Long-running Kokomo eatery recognized as one of the all-time great pizzerias in the U.S.

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the Kokomo Tribune.


Kokomo Tribune

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - If you order a pizza from Martino’s Italian Villa, you are literally eating a Martino’s pizza.

That’s because only a Martino family member makes the restaurant’s iconic pizza pie. Every morning, Angela Martino and her son, Mike, whip up the crust and sauce from scratch, season the sausage and grate the cheese before it’s put into the oven.

That’s the way it’s always been since Angela and her husband, Frank, founded their first restaurant in Kokomo in 1962. And that’s the way it’s going to stay.

And that’s the reason the city’s oldest Italian restaurant earlier this month was inducted into the national Pizza Hall of Fame, which was established in 2005 by PMQ Pizza Magazine to showcase legendary pizzerias and the pizzaioli who have helped build America’s pizza culture.

Martino’s now takes its place beside dozens of iconic East Coast eateries such as New Jersey’s Santillos Brick Oven Pizza and Patsy’s Pizzeria, a local haunt in New York City’s East Harlem that was frequently patronized by Frank Sinatra.

Angela, 81, said when she and Frank founded their first shop selling donuts, short-order items, spaghetti and pizza, she had no idea the restaurant would still be going strong 55 years later and become one of the country’s all-time pizza greats.

“I remember one of my nephews out in Rhode Island told me once, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you were around for 50 years?’” Angela said. “I said, ‘That’ll never happen.’ And here we are.”

Where they are is a long way from where they started. Angela and Frank grew up together in Italy before immigrating to New York. Angela came to the U.S. in 1947 when she was 11 years old.

The two ended up marrying a year before deciding to move to Kokomo, where some of Frank’s family had already settled.

The young couple was raising four kids and barely scraping buy when they noticed the small building at the corner of Phillips and Jackson streets was available. Angela said the building gave them an idea: why not open up a restaurant?

And so they did. At the same time, Martino’s became only the second pizza place to open in Kokomo. The other restaurant was called Pizza Den, Angela said, and it ended up closing years ago.

She said at the time, Italian food was a kind of novelty item in Kokomo, which probably helped drum up business.

“Today, everyone takes for granted what lasagna and rigatoni is, but they didn’t know about it here,” Angela said.

It also helped that Frank made a show of twirling and tossing the pizza dough to impress the customers.

“People loved that,” she said. “They’d come and look through the windows to watch him.”

“I never did twirl the dough. I didn’t want to get flour in my hair,” Angela added with a laugh.

A few years later, they moved the restaurant to a location on North Main Street near where the Handle Bar is currently located.

Mike, 56, said that’s where he first got his feet wet working in the family business. By the time he was 9 years old, his parents already had him and his siblings grating cheese and emptying the grease fryer.

By 1972, the restaurant was booming, so the Martinos decided to build an eatery big enough to house all their customers at 1929 N. Washington St. And that’s where they’ve stayed.

Since then, the restaurant has dramatically expanded its menu, serving both traditional Italian food alongside American favorites. But Martino’s pizza has still remained one of the most popular items.

Angela said that’s because they’ve used the same old-world recipe to make their pizza pies for the last 55 years.

“Our customers won’t let us change anything,” she said. “That’s what they like.”

The other constant at Martino’s is Angela herself. At 81, customers can still find her at the restaurant beside her son nearly every morning cooking up bread, sauce, soup and all their other made-from-scratch items.

“She’s a freak of nature,” Mike said. “She’s here every day, six days a week. And she works. Like works works. She’s 81 years old and still working 10 hour days sometimes.”

“I still keep up,” Angela said with a smile.

That’s been the case even when Frank passed away in 2004. Instead of closing, Angela said she decided to just work harder to keep their hard-won restaurant open.

Mike said looking back, it’s hard to believe Martino’s has become such an establishment in Kokomo. But it’s even harder to believe their restaurant has now been recognized as a national treasure since their induction into the Pizza Hall of Fame.

“When you read about these old pizzerias, you think, ‘That’s pretty cool,’” he said. “You never think you’ll be one. When you do it every day, it just becomes what you do.”

Angela said after 55 years, they don’t need the recognition to know they’ve built something great. But even so, it’s still pretty awesome, she said.

“A half-of-fame pizza place in Kokomo? Are you kidding?” she said with a laugh.


Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/2mpArsl


This story has been corrected to show the correct name of PMQ Pizza Magazine. This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story.

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