WYOMING — Had Louis Ceccoli not taken his lunch to work in 1942, there may not have been any “pizza” at Victory Pig.
“My grandmother brought pizza to my grandfather for lunch when this was still just a barbecue place,” said Richard Ceccoli, who now oversees operations at the Wyoming Avenue restaurant. “There were people here from Forty Fort who wanted some so he sold them his lunch.”
Louis Ceccoli called his wife Lee at home and told her to bring more pizza, but to deliver it to the kitchen and he would take it in through the service window.
And so it began.
“After about three weeks, my grandmother told my grandfather he needed to put in an oven or she wasn’t making any more pizza,” Ceccoli said, laughing. “So they put in one oven.”
That was 76 years ago. Today, the business has six ovens and can put out 662 pieces of pizza, if necessary.
“From one oven to four ovens,” Ceccoli said. “From four slices to over 664.”
Ceccoli’s parents, Robert and Ann, joined the business in 1947, after they met in the Pacific.
“My dad was in the service in the Pacific and his friend told him that his sister was coming,” Ceccoli said. “And my dad said your sister is coming here?”
Turns out Ann Ceccoli was in the USO and part of a group entertaining the troops.
Both knew they liked each other from the very beginning.
“We both knew,” said Ann, now 93 years old. “But my mother didn’t. She thought I was too young to get married.”
When the couple arrived back in the states, Robert arrived for a date in full uniform. When the date was over, he purposefully left his gloves behind.
“He wanted to know that he would see me again,” Ann said.
After Robert and Ann married, they joined his parents at the business.
The only problem was that Ann didn’t know how to cook.
“I didn’t even know how to fry an egg,” she said. ”But my mother-in-law taught me.”
Richard Ceccoli joined his father in business in 1972, eight days before Hurricane Agnes hit the Wyoming Valley.
He was teaching in Florida when his grandparents were seriously injured in a cruise ship accident. He flew to Bermuda where they were in the hospital and accompanied them back home, intending to stay for a few months to help his father while his grandparents recovered.
Mother Nature, however, had other plans.
“Eight days later, the flood happened,” he said. “And I knew that my family needed my help.”
His parents lost their home and were displaced for two-and-a-half years.
“There was such a big need for construction,” he said. “And it was hard to find people to do the work.”
And although Ceccoli describes that period as “horrible,” he is not without a funny story or two pertaining to the rebuilding of the business.
“We had put all the paper products in the kitchen to save them, but they were so heavy with water that the kitchen collapsed completely,” he said. “I kept forgetting and falling into the basement.”
After two weeks, his father told him, “Even a dog would remember by now that there is no kitchen.”
“I was pretty beat up,” he said, laughing.
When Ceccoli took over the business, he worked to bring in the younger generation.
“We had had a lot of loyal customers,” he said. “But when they died, we didn’t have anyone to replace them.”
When teenagers came to Rich’s Golf Center, also run by the Ceccoli family and now closed, many had never tasted the pizza.
“We’d have dances and we’d take little slices of pizza over and they would ask where we got it,” Ceccoli said. “And I’d tell them its only 15 steps away.”
Ceccoli’s son Richie has joined him at the helm of the business, learning the art of pizza making and business from his dad.
Sons Robert and Randy also work at the restaurant where the menu includes not just pizza but barbecues, sandwiches, chicken wings, French fries and other items.
“All my three boys graduated from college with honors, thank God,” Ceccoli said.
Ceccoli said the business continues to grow and change.
Several years ago, it launched an online business that allows people throughout the country to order pizza from their website.
Victory Pig pizza has been shipped to 47 states, including Alaska.
“We also have a Facebook and a website,” Ceccoli said. “We look forward to serving the next generation.”
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