Family tradition and a rich history of genuine Italian cuisine – that is what compelled brothers Vincent and Anthony Russo to open Russo’s Wood Fired Pizza in Zanesville.
To properly tell their story, it is necessary to go back four decades. It was but one year into the 80’s and Zanesville was acquiring the newest fad – a shopping mall. Colony Square Mall was the trendy retail and entertainment destination for the area and people would go en masse. It was commonplace at that time for every mall to have a food court. That was the place you would patronize to refuel and recharge from your shopping day, as well as being the spot for many area youth to meet. It was also the prospect that compelled Nino Russo and his childhood friend, Vinny, to move from the East Coast to Ohio and open Picnic Pizza – a counter service staple that still exists and thrives in Colony Square Mall to this day.
A recipe rich in family and history.
Nino, who immigrated from Sicily in 1975 as a teenager, made his living in the States by working at his Uncle Sal’s pizzeria in New Jersey. It was there that he started to develop his own love for pizza and the craft that goes into creating it. And it is there that one of the regular diners introduced him to Elena, who would eventually become his wife. Nino’s drive and his passion for quality pizza soon prompted him to strike out on his own.
After a multi-state search, Nino landed at the new Colony Square Mall and determined that it was the best option to open a pizzeria of his own. With this endeavor, Nino and Elena placed roots in Ohio and soon came to call Zanesville “home”. As the business continued to grow, so did the family. The Russo circle soon included children who attended school and local clubs in Zanesville. When the time came, they each took their turn as employees of Picnic Pizza and acquired a, pardon the pun here, taste for the family business.
The next generation come into their own.
Fast forward to 2017. The Russo brothers, Vincent and Anthony, conceived an idea for a new pizza restaurant. But this would not be your typical pizza place. The pie served here has the distinction of being prepared in a wood fired, brick oven. The process of cooking pizza in this way dates to the dish’s origins in Naples during the 1600’s.
“The uniqueness of the cooking method…and the high heat causes a burst in the dough making it a lighter and airycrust,” explains co-owner Vincent. Prior to joining his brother in the restaurant space, Vincent had a ten-year career as a practicing attorney. At that same time, brother Anthony held a position as an executive chef at the Zanesville Country Club where he delighted members with several of his dishes. The skills and acumen required for that position came from Anthony’s attendance of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York – a learning institution that is regarded as one of the top culinary schools in the Nation. It was not long, however, that Anthony’s cultural roots and his desire to be in business for himself led him to the concept of a distinct and high value pizza experience. Thus, the concept of Russo’s Wood Fired Pizza was born.
When discussing his love for the culinary arts, Anthony says, “I’ve always enjoyed cooking and the family meals that we did.” In fact, it was those very meals that provided inspiration for some of the menu items at Russo’s. One of their signature pizzas, The Mobster, was inspired by topping pizza with meatballs at the Russo household during his childhood.
The Russo’s experience is a stand-out among other pizzas.
Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by a friendly pizzaiolo. (That is an individual who specializes in making pizzas and who has been trained to make real, Italian-style pies.) The patron will have the choice of selecting one of Russo’s signature pizzas that combine some of the best flavor combinations as developed by Vincent and Anthony. If you prefer to have a pie your way, the pizzaiolo will build it for you from a generous selection of traditional and diverse topping choices. This is a point of pride for the Russo brothers when they cite the quality of the ingredients as an important part of their offerings.
Even with all their exceptional pizza possibilities, Russo’s has so much more. Vincent points out that this is one of the only restaurants where you have the ability to choose the ingredients for and build your own artisan salad. The menu also expands to include assorted pasta dishes and their take on the baked sandwich – the Foldwich. If you are looking for quality catering for your wedding, corporate event, or family reunion, their robust menu selection has dishes to give your guests a memorable dining experience. You may also find them at local events and gatherings in one of their two food trucks – Russo’s Wood Fired Pizza or Stackburger.
A genuine love for food and community is a Russo way of life.
Like their father before them, Vincent and Anthony are continuing a legacy of premium Italian fare for Zanesville. While they had other location options when deciding to open Russo’s Wood Fired Pizza, they elected Zanesville as their hearts lie in community and are proud to support local. We at Williamson Insurance are honored to be business partners with the Russo family. We value the relationships that we have with the local, small businesses and always hope to play a role in their success and longevity.
Now that many restrictions are lifted and life is returning to a point that we all recognize, we invite you to patronize Russo’s for a perfect pizza experience!