email: roadarch@outlook.com

Pizza Chef Signs

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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
Northridge, CA
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. [map]

Pizza King
Longview, TX
Pizza Hut
San Antonio, TX
Pizza Hut [gone]
Lake Geneva, WI
Pizza King has been around since at least 1970. For more, see this website. [map]

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, and 3. [map]

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. It is still operating as a Pizza Hut. There is another example of these Pizza Hut Pete signs in storage in Wichita, KS owned by the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County.

Imo's Pizza
St. Louis, MO
Imo's Pizza [gone]
Highland, IL
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 1987 for about $18,000 including installation. The chef is 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. In 2015, the sign was moved to the company's new headquarters in St. Louis. For more, see this website. [map]

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 that was in a sign company's storage lot in Highland, IL when this photo was taken in 2012. The sign company was closed so the sign's history remains a mystery. That sign is gone now. There was previously an Imo's location in Highland so the sign most likely was installed there.

Victorio's Ristorante
North Hollywood, CA
2012: 2017:
Victorio's Ristorante opened in 1964. These two identical signs are installed on the corner of the building. They were built in 1995. The chef's right hand flashes on and off. In 2017, these signs were replaced with backlit plastic signs. The neon signs are being repaired and will be moved to the back of the building. [map]

Uncle Dante's Pizza
Egg Harbor Township, NJ
Pietro's Pizza
Milwaukie, OR
This Uncle Dante's Pizza sign's panels are painted. I don't know if there is metal or wood underneath it or if the sign ever had neon. This photo is from 2012. By 2015, the restaurant had become Tulipano's Pizza and Grill. The sign was repainted. [map]

Pietro's Pizza was founded in Longview, WA in 1957. The Milwaukie location opened in 1969. This sign must be from then. The company expanded more than 70 locations over the years. Today, there are four locations including this one, two in Salem, OR, and one in Hood River, OR. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3. [map]

Pee Wee's Pizza
San Leandro, CA
2008: 2014:
Pee Wee's Pizza opened in 1953 and this sign is probably from then. The restaurant was destroyed by fire in 2006. 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. [map]

Antonio's Flying Pizza
Houston, TX
Mario's Flying Pizza [gone]
Webster, TX
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 in 1971 and this sign was installed then. For more, see this video. [map]

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
Killeen, TX
Pizza Palace Drive-in
Knoxville, TN
Home Slice Pizza
Austin, TX
Niki's Pizza
Pittsburgh, PA
Tony's Pizza
Bremerton, WA
The Pizza Palace sign and building in Killeen appear to be from around the 1960s. Does anyone know anything about this place? For more, see [map]

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. [map]

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. [map]

Niki's Pizza features this neon "skeleton" sign in the window. It is probably fairly modern but nicely done. [map]

Tony's Pizza opened in 1966. This sign appears to be from then. [map]

Drag's Restaurant
and Roman Lounge
Rice Lake, WI
Franzone's Pizzeria
& Restaurant
Bridgeport, PA
Pizza Villa [gone]
Richardson, TX
Drag's Restaurant and Roman Lounge opened in 1961 and this sign appears to be from then. [map]

Franzone's Pizzeria & Restaurant opened in 1955. This sign might be more recent than that. [map]

Pizza Villa opened in 1960 and closed in 2013. These photos are from 2011. By 2014, this sign was gone. For more, see this website.

Michael's Pizza
St. Paul, MN
Frank Pepe's Pizzeria
New Haven, CT
I believe Michael's Pizza opened in 1955. The restaurant was originally across the street. The wire mesh preceded plexiglass as a method of protecting the neon tubing. The light bulb eyes might still wink. [map]

Frank Pepe's Pizzeria was founded in 1925. This sign is probably from the 1960s. [map]

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 this website. [map]

Alesi's Pizza House
Lafayette, LA
Bear's Den Pizzeria
Grayling, MI
Cassano Pizza King
Fairfield, OH
Deano's Pizza
Fillmore, UT
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. [map]

Bear's Den Pizzeria features a painted plywood pizza chef sign. [map]

The Cassano Pizza King sign is from the late 1950s or early 1960s. It is lit at night. There was another one like this in Kettering, OH which is gone now. There is a similar Cassano's sign in Cincinnati at the American Sign Museum (1, 2, 3). That sign was originally displayed in Cincinnati. Cassano's has many other locations but I don't believe any of them have neon or vintage signs. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

The Deano's Pizza chef signs are made of painted plywood. I believe this place closed in 2012. This photo is from 2014. I don't know if these signs are still there. [map]

More Pizza Chef Signs:
Pinocchio's Pizza (Gilroy, CA)
Pietro's Pizza (Vacaville, CA) [gone]
Henrici's Pizza (Herrin, IL) [map]
Liberty Famous Pizza (Framingham, MA)
Jolly Cholly Pizza: 1, 2 (North Attleboro, MA) [vintage; gone]
Venice Cafe (Somerville, MA) [vintage; gone]
Lisa'a Pizza (Old Orchard Beach, ME)
Pizza Inn (Cherokee, NC) [gone]
Master Pizza (Clifton, NJ) [map]
Bradley's Pizzeria (Wayne, NJ)
Tony's Pizza (Brooklyn, NY) [map]
Grand Avenue Pizza (Queens, NY) [gone]
Orlando's Pizza Shop (East Liverpool, OH)
J&G Pizza Palace (Sylvania, OH) [map]
Colonial Pizza & Spaghetti House (Easton, PA)
Vincent's Pizza Park (Pittsburgh, PA)
Carl's Pizza West (Kenosha, WI) [map]
Tom's House of Pizza (Calgary, AB) [map]
Pizza Palace (Grand Bend, ON) [map]
Camden Market (London, England)

If you know of any others, I'd love to hear from you.

Pizza Chef Statues:
Jo Jo (Pizza Inn) (West Helena, AR)
Vince's Pizza (Rochelle, IL)
Bottle Shed Bar & Liquor Store (Stockton, IL)
Sugar Grove Family Fun Center (Sugar Grove, IL)
Pizza John's (Essex, MD)
Tony's Pizza (Ocean City, MD)
Gala-T-Inn (Hartford, MI) [map]
former Happy Chef (Wyoming, MN)
Harry's Grill & Piggy's Ice (Hendersonville, NC)
Mimi's Dairy-O Pizza & Grill (Rutherfordton, NC)
Continental Restaurant (Jamestown, ND) [vintage; gone]
Franconi's Pizza (Wildwood, NJ)
David's Pizza (Lebanon, TN)
Little Caesars (various cities)

Main SCA Article
Companion Page
Main Signs Page