In the 1950s, Sam Perrella owned a small cafe in Minnesota's Iron Range, offering up the usual cafe fare of coffee and baked goods. But after hearing WWII soldiers' stories of Italian pizza and traveling to Chicago to taste the Windy City's version of the Italian pie, he and his wife created their own version. They morphed the cafe with Sammy's Pizza, moved it to a larger location, and watched the loyal customers roll in.
The iconic restaurant now boasts 16 locations in three states and the Five Four Lounge in Coon Rapids. But though it's a household name, it remains a family-run eatery with menu items culled from family recipes. Among them are chicken tetrazzini, three-cheese bacon caballero, and specialty pizzas. Favorites include Sammy's Special with Italian sausage, green pepper, and onions, or the Iron Ranger with kosher beef salami, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.