Dayton’s first pizza chain: Cassano’s and the taste of success

The original caption dated July 7, 1964 reads: "Marking their 11th anniversary this month are the Vic Cassano-Mom Donisi Pizza houses which have grown from a one-store operation to a $3 million a year business. Above, Cassano and Mrs. John (Mom) Donisi, his mother-in-law, are shown in the central commissary from which ingredients are distributed to their pizza outlets." DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
Caption
The original caption dated July 7, 1964 reads: "Marking their 11th anniversary this month are the Vic Cassano-Mom Donisi Pizza houses which have grown from a one-store operation to a $3 million a year business. Above, Cassano and Mrs. John (Mom) Donisi, his mother-in-law, are shown in the central commissary from which ingredients are distributed to their pizza outlets." DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

The beloved pizza business was founded June 4, 1953

Dayton’s first bite of pizza came from the back of a Kettering party supply and grocery store.

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Cassano's Pizza King started in 1953 in the back of a store at West Schantz Avenue and Patterson Boulevard in Kettering. PHOTO COURTSY OF THE CASSANO FAMILY

Cassano's Pizza King started in 1953 in the back of a store at West Schantz Avenue and Patterson Boulevard in Kettering. PHOTO COURTSY OF THE CASSANO FAMILY
Caption
Cassano's Pizza King started in 1953 in the back of a store at West Schantz Avenue and Patterson Boulevard in Kettering. PHOTO COURTSY OF THE CASSANO FAMILY

Vic Cassano Sr., the son of Italian immigrants, and his mother-in-law, Caroline “Mom” Donisi, started Dayton’s first pizza shop. Cassano’s Pizza King opened in a 20-by-15 foot room at West Schantz Avenue and Patterson Boulevard in 1953.

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Known locally at the start as “Vic & Mom’s,” the restaurant was built was the tireless work of the family, including Cassano’s wife, Anne.

“It was my mom and grandma who stayed up late at night, rolling dough and making tomato sauce and slicing pepperoni,” the couple’s daughter Cindy Cassano McElroy told the Dayton Daily News in 2008.

Photographs in the Dayton Daily News archive captured Cassano taste-testing the square-cut pizza piled with toppings to ensure the taste and quality.

The pizza was popular with Dayton palates. Five years after the back-room start, there were 16 Cassano’s pizza shops in the area.

A 1965 Dayton Daily News article made special note of the opening of the 30th store at 2178 N. Gettysburg Avenue.

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Vic Cassano Sr. and his mother-in-law Caroline "Mom" Donisi opened Cassano's Pizza King in 1953. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

Vic Cassano Sr. and his mother-in-law Caroline "Mom" Donisi opened Cassano's Pizza King in 1953. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
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Vic Cassano Sr. and his mother-in-law Caroline "Mom" Donisi opened Cassano's Pizza King in 1953. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

The “new pizza house with Italian décor” was described in the story as a training center for the rapidly expanding chain and the template for things to come.

Draft beer was available at the new site, as was a venue for live entertainment. A Centerville folk-singing group, “The Ten of Us,” helped kick things off.

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People couldn’t get enough of the Pizza King’s combinations of pepperoni, sausage and cheese. The company grew to 125 stores over the following three decades, and by the 1970s the company ranked in the top four pizza chains in the country.

“The fun of the free enterprise system is that you can go as far as you want if you are willing to offer a little more than the average person,” Cassano Sr. told the Dayton Daily News in March 1974.

Caption
People couldn’t get enough of the Pizza King’s combinations of pepperoni, sausage and cheese. The company grew to 125 stores over the following three decades, and by the 1970s the company ranked in the top four pizza chains in the country. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

Credit: HANDOUT

People couldn’t get enough of the Pizza King’s combinations of pepperoni, sausage and cheese. The company grew to 125 stores over the following three decades, and by the 1970s the company ranked in the top four pizza chains in the country. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
Caption
People couldn’t get enough of the Pizza King’s combinations of pepperoni, sausage and cheese. The company grew to 125 stores over the following three decades, and by the 1970s the company ranked in the top four pizza chains in the country. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

A few years after Cassano Sr. retired in 1986, his son Vic Cassano Jr. bought the company. Today the third generation runs the company.

More than 60 years after it was founded, Cassano’s Pizza King was honored in 2016 by the State of Ohio with a historical marker outside the company headquarters in Kettering. The marker commemorates the pizza chain’s contribution to the state’s history.

“This is in honor of our grandfather and our dad,” current CEO Vic (Chip) Cassano III said at the ceremony. “It’s for all the work and innovations they did.”

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