An Italian Stallion
Although it’s grown older and bigger, Rossi’s Pizza is still home.
From left: Bill, Lori and Ron Rossi carry on a 46-year tradition.
In 1965, when Hank and Lori Rossi bought the tiny house on South Orange Blossom Trail that became Rossi’s Pizza, there wasn’t much more on that now-hectic road than filling stations and, a bit south of it, Gatorland. The building was big enough for 38 seats and a kitchen on one end and living quarters on the other.
After 46 years of Frankensteinian patches and extensions (including the annexation of a neighboring barber shop), the plain turquoise exterior belies the rambling and immaculate restaurant within, which sports wood-paneled walls, seating for close to 300 and a rectangular bar where stools fill with regulars on nights and lunch breaks. It is an immediately comfortable landmark, and a most unexpected oasis.
The beer is cold and pizzas—thin, deep dish and stuffed—are rustic and well-baked. The hearty tomato sauce that also appears over pasta and baked into parmigiana is Hank’s mother’s original recipe, and it tastes like it’s been simmering and developing flavor for all of its 46 years.
Henry “Hank” Rossi died in March at 83. Sons Ron and Bill run the place now, with advice from their mom, Nina (who’s called Lori). According to Lori, Ron has been waiting tables here “since before he was born.” Ron handles the business side, while Bill, the younger brother, runs the kitchen. There’s a Domino’s across the street and a Papa John’s up the block, but Rossi’s continues to pull in crowds looking for the genuine article. Hank would be proud.
ADDRESS 5919 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando