|Pizza Chef Signs|
(hit "refresh" to get the most recent version of this page; click on photos for larger images)
|The photos and links at this page are meant to accompany an article I've written for the Society for Commercial Archeology's Journal.|
|Shakey's Pizza Parlor
|The Shakey's Pizza Parlor chain used this pizza chef character in advertising and signs in the 1960s and 1970s. This sign was built in 1968 and is the last of its type. The neon text portion of the sign is about thirty-five feet long. The backlit plastic chef stands about eight feet tall. It is not known how many of these signs were produced but there were at least several in California and one in Iowa. There may have been many more than that. The only other known plastic chef sign was recently retrieved from a closed location and now resides at corporate headquarters in Alhambra, CA. The Shakey's chef character never had a name. Some people refer to him as Mr. Shakey. However, the founder, Sherwood "Shakey" Johnson, looked nothing like this. He had mutton chop sideburns and not the stereotypical pizza man's moustache. The original lamps on the roof behind the sign disappeared sometime between 2008 (top photo above) and 2012.|
San Antonio, TX
Lake Geneva, WI
Pizza King has been around since at least 1970. For more, see this website.
This Pizza Hut sign in San Antonio was built around 1969. It may have been the only sign ever built like this. In the late 1960s, Pizza Hut was producing very similar plastic signs with the chef but with only one pizza in mid-air. The chef character is known as Pizza Hut Pete. He began appearing in Pizza Hut advertising in 1963. The character was used on non-neon signs on the roofs and fronts of the company’s restaurants through the 1970s.
When this restaurant moved to a new building in 1999, this sign was brought along. The location loses points during corporate inspections for having a non-conforming signage. However, the sign is allowed to stay as long as it is impeccably maintained. Not including the pole, the sign is about twenty-five feet tall. The Pizza Hut Pete portion is about ten feet tall. According to the owner, the sign has more than 100 pieces of red, white and blue neon. Pete's left hand moves up and down while the pizza sequences through four positions. The top of the sign mimics the Pizza Hut's hat-like roof design of the 1960s. The sign was repainted a couple times. Around 2009, the sign panels were covered with laser photo sheets which should require less maintenance. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, 3, and 4.
These Pizza Hut signs in Lake Geneva were installed on the front of the building until 2011. At that time, vandals broke off their arms and they were removed. This is that last location that I know of that had these signs.
St. Louis, MO
North Hollywood, CA
The Imo's Pizza chain was established in 1964. The company's advertising features a chef mascot known simply as the "Imo's Guy". This St. Louis location opened in the early 1970s. The sign was built in the early 1980s for about $18,000 including installation. The chef stands about ten feet tall and is lit with red neon. In 2011, the sign was restored after some of the neon was broken by tree branches during a storm. For more, see this website.
According to Margie Imo, the St. Louis sign was the only one of its kind built and the only neon pole sign built by the company. However, there's a nearly identical neon sign in a sign company's storage lot in Highland, IL. The sign company is closed now so the sign's history remains a mystery. There was previously an Imo's location in Highland so the sign most likely was installed there.
Pietro's Pizza is next door to the Kellogg Bowl and their sign is also lit at night. The company was founded in Longview, WA in 1957. Today, there are three locations with the two others in Salem, OR and Hood River, OR. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3.
Victorio's Ristorante opened in 1964 and this sign is probably from then. The chef's right hand flashes on and off. There are two identical signs on this corner of the building.
|Alesi's Pizza House
|Pee Wee's Pizza
San Leandro, CA
|Bear's Den Pizzeria
Alesi's Pizza House was established in 1957. The sign is lit and animated at night. The chef on this sign appears to be identical to the one in Jim's Steak House sign in Pittsburg, KS. I don't know which sign came first, if the businesses were ever related, or who copied who. For more, see this website.
Pee Wee's Pizza opened in 1953 and this sign is probably from then. The restaurant was destroyed by fire in 2006. These photos are from 2008. The building remained vacant until 2010 when a Papa John's Pizza moved in. The name on the sign was changed and new neon was added. However, the neon was removed from the chef’s head. This sign is about ten feet tall. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2.
Bear's Den Pizzeria features a painted plywood pizza chef sign.
|Antonio's Flying Pizza
|Mario's Flying Pizza [gone]
The Antonio's Flying Pizza sign is 20 feet tall and installed on twenty foot tall poles. Both of the animated chef's arms move to spin and hoist the pizza. The pizza is lit sequentially in six positions. Antonio's opened with this sign in 1971. For more, see this video.
There were four other signs like this built for Mario's Flying Pizza. Mario was Antonio's brother-in-law. The first sign was installed in Galveston in 1969. Another went up at a second location in Galveston and there were others in Seawall, Webster and Seabrook. This Webster photo is from 2008. In 2011, the sign was removed and replaced with a plastic version. It was the last of the neon Mario's Flying Pizza signs. It was deemed too expensive to maintain – costing the owner about $5,000 each year. The sign is now in storage at the owner’s house.
|Pizza Palace Drive-in
|Home Slice Pizza
The Killeen Pizza Palace sign and building appear to be from around the 1960s. Does anyone know anything about this place? For more, see this website.
The Pizza Palace Drive-in in Knoxville opened in 1961. This sign was restored in 2010 with assistance from Knoxville's Save Our Signs program. For more, see this website.
Home Slice Pizza has the only known neon sign with a female pizza chef. The "Queen of Pies" character is based on the restaurant's brainchild and co-owner, Jen Strickland. Strickland developed the pizza recipes from extensive research in New York City. The pig-tailed Queen of Pies wears a moustache because, well, all pizza chefs have them. Home Slice Pizza opened in 2005. This sign was built in 2010 by Evan Voyles of Neon Jungle. The sign might not have been legal had there not already been a pole there from a former cleaners which opened on the site in 1947. The sign is seven feet tall and cost about $18,000. It is lit with red, yellow, blue and white neon. The Queen winks and the pizza moves up and down. For more, see this website.
Niki's Pizza features this neon "skeleton" sign in the window. It is probably fairly modern but nicely done.
and Roman Lounge
Rice Lake, WI
Drag's Restaurant and Roman Lounge opened in 1961 and this sign appears to be from then.
Franzone's Pizzeria & Restaurant opened in 1955. This sign might be more recent than that.
Pizza Villa opened around 1966. This sign is lit at night. For more, see this website.
|Mr. Scrib's Pizza
Grand Haven, MI
|Mr. Scrib's Pizza was established in Muskegon, MI in the late 1950s. There are now five locations in West Michigan: three in Muskegon, one in Norton Shores and this one. This Grand Haven location was built in 1988. The sign is lit at night. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, 3, and 4.|
Pizza Chef statues:
Jo Jo (Pizza Inn) (West Helena, AR)
Vince's Pizza (Rochelle, IL)
Bottle Shed Bar & Liquor Store (Stockton, IL)
Pizza John's (Essex, MD)
Tony's Pizza (Ocean City, MD)
former Happy Chef (Wyoming, MN)
Harry's Grill & Piggy's Ice (Hendersonville, NC)
Brutus (Columbus, OH)
Peggy's Market (Westmoreland, TN)
Pizza Towne (La Crosse, WI) [gone]
Little Caesars (various cities)
More Pizza Chef signs:
Welliver's Smorgasbord (Hagerstown, IN)
Venice Cafe (Somerville, MA)
Lisa'a Pizza (Old Orchard Beach, ME)
Michael's Pizza (St. Paul, MN)
Pizza Inn (Cherokee, NC)
Harry's Grill & Piggy's Ice (Hendersonville, NC)
Master Pizza (Clifton, NJ)
Uncle Dante's Pizza (Egg Harbor Township, NJ)
Bradley's Pizzeria (Wayne, NJ)
Josie's Pizza (Wildwood, NJ) [gone]
Tony's Pizza (Brooklyn, NY)
Grand Avenue Pizza (Queens, NY)
Orlando's Pizza Shop (East Liverpool, OH)
Cassano Pizza King (Fairfield, OH)
J&G Pizza (Sylvania, OH)
Carl's Pizza West (Kenosha, WI)
Tom's House of Pizza (Calgary, AB)
Camden Market (London, England)
If you know of any others, I'd love to hear from you.
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