Do you remember your first piece of Hi-Way Pizza?
What do buffalo wings, vodka sauce and pizza boxes have in common? Andy Zangrilli introduced them all to Happy Valley over the years. Find out what he's bringing now!
It was 1963. Newspapers were filled with John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Women at Penn State had a 10:30 p.m. curfew. University Park enrollment topped out at 18,753. It was then that 22-year-old Andy Zangrilli started quietly making history.
It started simply enough: He set up Hi-Way Pizza on Heister where students could walk down from campus and buy thick, rectangular Sicilian pizza at two cuts for a quarter. He didn't like that other shops used grocery store sauce, so he perfected his own secret recipe. Frozen dough was too tough, so he made his own from scratch. He didn't like the way carry-out containers made pizza crust soggy, so he had shirt boxes shipped in on a bus seat from Altoona. And just like that, what might have been just another downtown pizza place started a food revolution that still flavors Happy Valley more than 50 years later.
The pizza was good, inexpensive and uncomplicated. It was all pepperoni, for one thing. “Pepperoni flavored the whole pizza,” Andy explains. “If someone didn't like it, I told them just to pick it off.” This concept enabled him to handle a large volume of customers and keep the pizza fresh, hot and great, a core value that's never changed. He added one soda machine, and then another. Space opened up nearby and he opened a second restaurant, a date-night destination that served Neopolitan-style round pie. He hand-crafted benches for the restaurant at night after closing, then went over to Phyrst and helped them make their benches when he was done.
By the time Gentle Thursdays and the Phi Psi 500 were at Penn State, Dante's Restaurants included three Hi-Way pizza locations, and a gourmet food store Cornucopia (later The Deli, Mario's, The Saloon, bar bleu, Inferno, The Hop Shop and Liberty Craft House would join the mix). Within a few years, Hi-Way Pizza Pub opened on Westerly Parkway, combining the pizza that had made Hi-Way a household name–everything made fresh, every day–with a neighborhood pub atmosphere.
As locations expanded and pushed boundaries in the still-small town of State College, so did innovations, both in food and how the restaurants operated. Frustrated with how pasta was being cooked, Andy retrofitted a fryer to boil water at optimal temperature for perfect pasta. He brought in French pastry ovens from Canada and ordered the area's first wood oven. He traveled to visit an old roommate in Atlanta, tasted his first buffalo wings, and promptly brought them back to the Deli. Another time, on a visit to Italy, he found the perfect vodka sauce and introduced it in his restaurants.
And the pizza. Oh, the pizza. No matter which location, from the fast-casual downtown eatery (remember the clowns on the wall?) to the pub on Westerly, pizza took center stage. As well it should. Made with imported flour, specially-blended whole milk cheeses, secret sauces and locally-sourced meats, it just takes one bite to fall in love.
It's lucky for us that 50 years later, Andy is still pushing the envelope. This fall, Hi-Way West will open, offering a whole new way to enjoy a vodka flaky or stuffed red in a pub atmosphere. Tucked away on West College, it will be perfectly situated for quick lunches or to catch some of the game after work. The pizza that you remember is waiting for you, and it's just as good (and fresh) as ever.