This post was written by Madeline Mastro Ferrentino on facebook today.
Can't believe what the pizza industry has become after my father started it in l935 with his gas fired portable pizza oven that he designed and had manufactured by G.S. Blodgett in Vermont. He spent the remainder of his life until his death in 1957 promoting it and designing and have manufacturers produce the ancillary products needed to operate a pizzeria. My brother picked up the mantle and continued with it until his death in 1965. He demonstrated what one person can do with perseverance, dedication, and belief in a cause to follow it thru. The impetus was the depression when his customers struggled to keep their businesses alive and the necessity to keep his own livelihood going. He started a restaurant and supply business in 1925, at the beginning handling mostly china as a distributor for the Scammell's china company out of Trenton who manufactured the china for the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Waldorf Astoria, Horn and Hardart's and others. As his business and customers continued to grow his inventory expanded to all equipment needed to run restaurants, hotels and institutions. Then came the DEPRESSION. With jobs in short supply people hardly were able to put food on their own tables, much less go to a restaurant. Pizza at that time was made in the Italian bakeries after the morning hours in huge coal fired brick wall ovens but mothers and grandmothers made them for their children after school in their own kitchen gas ovens. Ingredients to make pizza at that time were inexpensive and my father felt it would be a good addition to an Italian restaurant or bar's menu. He theorized that pizzas could be made in gas ovens in restaurants as well. He experimented with his design first putting a gas line in a commercial coal deck oven, then going to a design to a full gas oven and after several further designs ending up with a model that could put out one pizza a minute by maneuvering the pizzas on the decks in a certain way. Pizza was instantly popular, because of price and taste. The first huge pizzas were sold for 25 cents and I remember people standing around the block waiting for pizza at Greenpoint Pizzeria one of the first places my father set up (and my mother and Dad helped to run) for takeout as well as waiting for seating. And so the industry started. What has brought me back to remembering all of this is Norma Knepp contacting me and her curiosity about all things "pizza" including the history of the industry in the U.S. She has opened up this whole new world of pizza as it is today which I had not realized was going on since my brother's death....pizza forums, competitions, days long shows, pizza tours etc that is world wide. I was amazed to find that my father and brother were no longer known as the major participants in the industry , but thrilled to know that what started as my father's desire to see people employed during the depression has made such an impact on so many lives as he believed it would. Norma is an amazing woman in her own right. I hope my Mom and Dad can see her from Heaven. From operating this one little stand in a Pennsylvania farm market to almost world wide recognition.