Giovanni Mineo Sr. was riding the 69 Squirrel Hill streetcar when he spotted a storefront for rent.
By the end of that day he had dreamed up a pizza business — one that has persevered for six decades in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.
Mineo’s Pizza House, a Squirrel Hill staple along Murray Avenue with the signature red awnings, will host a 60th birthday celebration starting at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
Here is a video of the celebration:
Mineo Sr. will be there in spirit. His legacy has never left that space he fell in love with in 1958. His photo in front of a pizza oven still hangs in the establishment.
He came to America in 1955 from a small town in Sicily. He initially worked for a huckster before making his own way in the pizza business.
His sons Dominic and Giovanni Jr. have continued on with their father’s vision and his pizza recipe.
“I believe we have lasted because of the way we do things,” says Dominic Mineo, sitting at one of the high-top round tables in the bar, a new addition to the business nearly five years ago. “We use top-notch quality products, we grate our own cheese, we make our own sauce, we make fresh dough every day.
Our key to success is that we are a family-oriented business that puts out a quality product, and we have never deviated from that …we don’t cut corners. My father never cut corners.”
Giovanni Mineo dedicated his entire life to the pizza business, starting with the homemade pie and some pasta dishes then adding hoagies and salads and other items to the menu. Today’s offerings include wings, rice balls, soups, lasagna, rigatoni, ravioli, manicotti, ziti, desserts and even breakfast pizza — eggs, bacon, onions and peppers and the famous signature cheeses.
“We haven’t changed anything from the way our father did things,” Giovanni Mineo Jr. says. “We cut our own vegetables and grate the cheese. It’s labor intensive, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Pizza in Squirrel Hill?
Many questioned Mineo’s decision to open a pizza shop in a Jewish neighborhood. But he not only survived but thrived, often closing on Jewish holidays. Many rabbis would stop in to thank Mineo for being such a good and courteous neighbor, his sons say.
“In the early years, there were days my dad thought he might not make it in this business, but he persevered,” Giovanni Mineo Jr. says.
“Our father was a determined, hard working man who instilled in us to work hard for what we want, and now there is a third generation of Mineos working here,” he says. “People thought he was crazy to do this, but he was determined.”
How they work it
The Mineo brothers alternate days working. They also have an amazing staff in both locations and may open a third spot in the North Hills. The Mt. Lebanon store opened in 1993 and is managed by Gary Robinson, who has been working for the family for nearly 40 years. Ron Reha is the Squirrel Hill manager and has worked there for 30 years.
“We know our workers well, they are part of our family,” Giovanni Mineo Jr. says. “We trust them. They’ve continued what my father started and treat our customers like family.”
His son, Giovanni Mineo III, is actively involved in the business as are Dominic Mineo’s daughter Elissa Mineo Filson and son John Dante Mineo. Mineo Filson’s husband Shawn Filson and her mother Caryl Mineo also help out.
The Mineo family is originally from Shaler. Dominic Mineo, 57, Giovanni Mineo Jr. , 53, and their sister Josephine, 55, attended Shaler High School and worked at the pizza shop.
Giovanni Mineo Sr. came to work every day until two months before he passed away in 1996. He spent many a morning making dough and sauce and preparing all of the meats and vegetables for pizza toppings. He was 70. His wife Rose was 67 when she passed away in 1993.
The store was originally closed on Sundays, but opened seven days a week in the late 1970s. To this day, pepperoni is the most popular topping. The shop began serving gluten free pizza and other gluten-free choices three years ago and opened a bar in 2014. What was once an ice cream and dessert area was remodeled to accommodate additional seating this year.
“We thought the bar would be a good aspect of the business, because what is a better combination than beer and pizza or wine and pasta?” asks Dominic Mineo.
“I say the bar is new school and the pizza side is old school,” Giovanni Mineo Jr. says. “They are two different areas. It just depends what you want which side you go to that day.”
Out of town? No problem
It’s called “Mineo’s Pizza to You.”
The idea to ship a 12 inch, eight-cut pizza overnight via Fed Ex came from a friend of Giovanni Mineo Jr.’s, Tobias Callet who was from Greenfield and then Squirrel Hill, before moving to Wellington, Fla., and asked to have a pizza sent.
Place your order 48 hours ahead of time and it will leave the store at 6 p.m. one night and arrive at 10 a.m. the next day. The pizza is half-baked and frozen. They only ship small pizzas but with any topping.
“We have been doing this for 30 years, but started advertising it about 20 years ago and it has grown and grown and grown,” says Dominic Mineo. “We have such a huge following all over the U.S. —customers who have moved away want Mineo’s pizza. We have people tell us when their children come home for a holiday, they get off the plane and come to Mineo’s before they go and see their parents.”
“We are proud of what we do here,” says Dominic Mineo. “We are proud of what our father started and his dedication to the pizza business. It’s a lot of work, but you never get tired of hearing how great the pizza is.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or email@example.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.