It has often been said that the American success story is based on inventing and introducing a product for which the public has been waiting. The success of the stuffed pizza is the story of Nancy and Rocco Palese.
It has often been said that the American success story is based on inventing and introducing a product for which the public has been waiting. The success of the stuffed pizza is the story of Nancy and Rocco Palese. They had lived most of their adult lives making pizza in Turin, Italy, before moving to Potenza and then emigrating in 1969 with their three children to the United States.
After 18 months in Chicago, Nancy and Rocco opened their first pizza parlor, Guy's Pizza, featuring the then popular thin crust pizza. Business had its ups and downs, and friends tried to get the Paleses to experiment with pan pizza. Rather than imitate, Rocco decided to introduce his own pizza, based on his mother's recipe for "scarciedda," an Easter specialty pie. Rocco’s invention, the stuffed pizza, was born!
Rocco began experimenting with his new pizza, trying to perfect its marketability. He went into a solo business, then a partnership, then again tried it on his own before the right combination of circumstances brought to him, to Nancy’s and to stuffed pizza, fabulous success.
The time, place and product were finally right when Rocco opened his new pizza restaurant in Harwood Heights, Illinois. The new location was named Nancy’s after Rocco's wife, Annunziata, and was dedicated to the preparation and serving of stuffed pizza. Nancy’s had a seating capacity of only 35 people when it opened. Within six months, Rocco had to begin the first of a series of expansions, which eventually increased the restaurant's capacity to 140 people. This was especially necessary after the 1975 rating of Nancy’s by Chicago Magazine as, "The Best Pizza in Chicago."