Brier Hill Pizza’s legacy lives on in Youngstown

Walk into any pizza shop in Youngstown, including Wedgewood in Austintown, and you'll see Brier Hill Pizza on the menu

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Friday is National Pizza Day. Youngstown has a storied tradition for having delicious pizza and 33 WYTV Reporter Tyler Trill brings the history of a style of pizza that started here in the city.

Youngstown’s most famous pizza is Brier Hill Pizza. The pizza consisting of grated Romano cheese, peppers and pizza sauce is named for the neighborhood the pizza became popular in during the 1940s.
One Youngstown historian says a man named Nick Lavanty is to thank for the Brier Hill Pizza’s rise to fame

“Nick popularized the idea of Brier Hill Pizza to the point that when Pizza Hut established franchises here in Youngstown, they felt compelled to put it on the menu. So this is something people associate with Youngstown, no doubt,” Tom Welsh said.

Welsh is a Youngstown historian, he wrote a book called Classic Restaurants of Youngstown. He says people who lived out of their home garden often made Brier Hill pizzas.

Walk into any pizza shop in Youngstown, including Wedgewood in Austintown, and you’ll see Brier Hill Pizza on the menu. The pizza is as a big of a part of the city’s history as the steel mills or boxing.

Pizza sauce, peppers and grated Romano cheese.
Give it 12 minutes to cook and serve it up.
Brier Hill Pizza, it’s pretty much Youngstown in a box and when you talk about Brier Hill Pizza, you’ll often hear about tradition.

“A lot of people, a lot of the old timers really enjoyed it. And a lot of the kids that never had it really enjoy it, too,” Tom Mozzy of Brier Hill Pizza said.

Some of the earliest Brier Hill Pizzas were made at St. Anthony’s in Youngstown, a church in the heart of the city’s Brier Hill neighborhood. Every Friday, starting at 4:30 a.m., volunteers begin making the dough for their mostly from scratch pizzas. This week, St. Anthony’s sold nearly 250 pies.

“I enjoy it myself. It’s the people. It’s helping out the parish. It’s the tradition. My parents used to come down here and do it,” Ernie Direnzo from St. Anthony’s said.

Welsh said there’s no doubt that it was a product of poverty.

“Brier Hill Pizza was a beneficiary of that to some extent. Any greens you found in that pizza usually came from the backyard, not the elaborate pizza we think of today. Very much, as you said, a working man’s dish,” welsh said.

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