"Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information." - Edward Murrow
All of us look for and desire the American Dream. Through determination, hard work, and perseverance, countless immigrants throughout American history have accomplished greatness, prosperity, and happiness. They bring with them a wide-variety of art, fashion, and food, mixing different aspects of the world into a massive cultural melting pot that forms the diverse America we know and love. This idea is not only present on the national stage, but locally in the heart of the Alleghenies.
The Grippi family is one such success story and folks in the southern part of Blair County have welcomed them with open arms. Originally from Villagrazia di Carini near Palermo, Sicily, the family's delicious homemade recipes have attracted a loyal following to their two restaurants in Roaring Spring and Newry.
Frank Grippi traveled to America in 1996 and initially worked with his sister and brother in-law at their local pizza shop near Hanover. It was his hope to make enough money to bring the rest of the family to America. Frank's wife, Maria, and their two children, Francesca and Paolo, who were teenagers at the time, were finally able to join him in America with only a few suitcases.
Frank and Maria ultimately purchased the Original Italian Pizza (OIP) on East Main Street in Roaring Spring from Frank's cousin in 2002. The business was then, and continues to be a family venture. Even daughter in-law, Lara Grippi, who officially joined the family in 2014, occasionally helps her husband, Paolo, and the family with their two pizza shops. "When Maria, Francesca and Paolo came over from Italy to be with Frank, the three of them hardly knew any English and yet the community was very welcoming of them," Lara said.
In February 2015, the family decided to open a second location on Dunnings Highway in Newry, naming it Mamma Mia's Pizza and Restaurant. Paolo and Francesca now help operate the two shops alongside their parents, often alternating locations and working 80 plus hours a week. "They all work themselves to the bone super long hours every week and deserve any recognition they can get for all their hard work and the sacrifices they have made over the years," Lara said.
Their diligence is rewarded in the end. Through creating authentic Italian cuisines and providing excellent service, OIP and Mamma Mia's have become community staples, forming a loyal base. "We try to make everyone comfortable, and being a small family business we make good relationships with customers," Lara said.
Even though both restaurants offer the same menu, new items are occasionally added. The family encourages feedback, ultimately adapting and enhancing their authentic menu, and even sometimes customizing orders when requested. "Maria makes a lot of the dishes herself, including the soups, which are her own recipes made from scratch, as well as the eggplant parmesan, lasagna, meatballs, and desserts like tiramisu, cannoli, and Sicilian cheesecake," Lara said. Overall, both locations take reservations and provide deliveries, while also welcoming walk-ins and take-outs. They also offer catering, which is especially good for large parties.
The Grippi family is proud of their heritage, pleased with their accomplishments, and will continue to build their family tradition. Lara humorously concluded, "Paolo and I are actually expecting a baby now and are proudly carrying on the next generation of pizza maker in the Grippi family."