Testimonials - Mary Zifer’s Pizza Shops
"Successful family pizza operation uses same Peerless Oven for 50 years"
The Mary Tomabene Zifer Family was raised on the three P’s, Pizza, Pasta and Pasta-Faggiola-Italian Bean Soup. The pizza she made for her family was not like what people know as pizza today. It was made from fresh dead dough with tomatoes, peppers, oregano, basikl and grated parmesan cheese, sprinkled on top. It was served cold, almost like Focaccia bread of today. Thursday night at the Zifer house was like most Italian homes throughout the country, “Pasta Night”, where a big pot of spaghetti and homemade bread with olive oil was served. On the other nights as Italian macaroni and bean soup, “pasta Faggiola” awaited the Zifer family. It was always served with fresh baked bread and olive oil.
Mary had a special gift of turning simple dishes as these into something wonderful. Today in the larger cities these simple peasant style Italian dishes have found there way on the menus of trendy upscale Italian eateries.
Passion: A passion for family, food and life best describe Mary. Her first love was her family, a caring hardworking mother. Mary always worked to help provide a better life for her family. Employed at U S Quary Tile in the early forties, Mary worked in the press room, where she would often bring in baked goods and cold pizza for her fellow employees. They loved Mary’s pizza, something new and different to them. They would have a later influence on her to enter into the pizza business.
In the 1920’s, family operated pizza shops started to appear all over the northeastern states. Out side of the larger eastern cities, pizza still remained unknown even into the 1940’s. It wasn’t until the end of the Second World War that it’s popularity began to increase. As the pizza phenomenon worked its way towards Ohio from New York, Mary began to explore the possibility of entering into business.
Mary always had a desire to start a business of her own. The daughter of Natale Tomabene, who operated Tomabene’s Italian Import Store in New Philadelphia, Ohio encouraged Mary to enter into business. Her brother, Joe Tomabene, who owner and operate the I.G.A. store in Navarre Ohio also encouraged his sister to open a pizza shop. He would later sell her pizzas in his store.
It was 1953, after a layoff at the ceramics plant that Mary began to investigate the pizza shops that had opened in the Canton Ohio area. With little investment capital, Mary began to produce pizzas for resale out of her house and kitchen oven for Tomabene’s Imports, Navarre I.G.A., Stallard’s Market and Riggle’s Market. Although not officially a pizza carryout yet, Mary did sell pizzas to students from St. Joseph’s High School at lunch time and after school. As her business began to grow, Mary needed to expand from her kitchen based operation. With a loan from the National Bank of Dover for $800, Mary purchased a Peerless Baking oven and pans from Ohio China Supply in Canton Ohio. She enclosed her porch area and Mary Zifer’s Pizza Shop On North Tuscarawas Avenue was in Business.
Mary Zifer started the first known pizza delivery in the area. Mary’s husband. Joe Zifer delivered pizzas to workers at the Reeves and Greer Steel, Shenago and General Electric plants. Joe also cut the pepperoni and cheese for the toppings. Mary even shipped pizzas overseas to her son! Joe was stationed in Japan in 1953 and Jim was stationed on Korea in 1955. Just like Mary’s co-workers at the ceramics plant, Joe and Jim’s friends enjoyed Mary’s pizza. Mary would individually wrap each piece of pizza in aluminum foil and ship them off in Ress Brothers cigar boxes. They made the 6 day journey still fresh and delicious.
Just as Mary emphasized to her children the importance of family, all the children worked in the pizza shop at some point in their lives. As the pizza business grew, some of her children opened other shops in the area. Mary Zifer’s Pizza Shops are still in operation at Dover, Ohio and New Philadelphia Ohio locations. Mary retired in 1976 and palled away October 15th, 1994.
The Peerless Oven is still in operation at the Dover, Ohio Location and still bakes good pizzas!