Pizza Chef Signs

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The photos and links at this page are meant to accompany an article that I wrote 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 only one left of this type on public display. 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. There was another plastic chef sign at the corporate headquarters in Alhambra, CA but that one is gone now. 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. By 2018, the entire sign panel had been painted black. The neon letters and the chef were still intact. [map]

Pizza King
Longview, TX
Pizza Hut
San Antonio, TX
Pizza Hut [gone]
Lake Geneva, WI
Pizza King was established in Tyler, TX in the 1950s. The restaurant moved to this location in 1965. This sign appears to be from then. [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 which are 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 [gone]
North Hollywood, CA
2012: 2017:
Victorio's Ristorante opened in 1964. These two identical signs were installed on the corner of the building. They were built in 1995. The chef's right hand flashed on and off. In 2017, these signs were replaced with backlit plastic signs. The neon signs were supposedly being repaired with plans to install them on the back of the building. However, that never happened.

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. By 2023, the restaurant had become An Illegal Affair, an Indian Fast Food & Pizza Grill. The sign was repainted again then. [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. The sign's chef has animated, fast moving feet. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3. [map]

Pee Wee's Pizza [gone]
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. By 2017, the sign had been completely defaced with backlit plastic letters and a circular panel installed over the chef's head. 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 20-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.

Barro's Pizza
Whittier, CA
Pizza Palace
Killeen, TX
Barro's Pizza was established in 1961 in Chicago. In 1968, the family moved to Southern California and opened a location in Hacienda Heights. Several other Southern California locations opened after that. This sign is probably from the late 1960s. This location may not have opened until 1980. If so, this sign must have come from a previous location. In 1980, some members of the Barro family moved to the Phoenix area and opened a location in Mesa, AZ. There are now about 40 locations in Arizona. [map]

The Pizza Palace sign and building in Killeen appear to be from around the 1960s. Does anyone know anything about this place? [map]

Pizza Palace Drive-in
Knoxville, TN
Home Slice Pizza
Austin, TX
Niki's Pizza [gone]
Pittsburgh, PA
Tony's Pizza
Bremerton, WA
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 featured this neon "skeleton" sign in the window. It was probably fairly modern but nicely done. In 2020, the building began housing Cope's Cafe & Pizzeria and this sign was gone.

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
Classic Pizza
Littlefield, TX [gone]
Dee's Pizza Inn
Winona, MS
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]

This Classic Pizza sign originally advertised for Pizza Inn. This sign and the one in Winona are the only two vintage plastic "Spin Man" signs that I know that are still on public display. The mascot, officially known as Jo Jo, was developed in 1967. This sign is probably from the 1960s or 1970s. It appears that it originally revolved. In 2022, the building began housing Pizza Ninjas and the Spin Man was painted black like a ninja. By 2023, the Spin Man sign was gone.

There was a statue at a closed location in Helena, AR. For more, see this website.

This Dee's Pizza Inn sign is installed on the ground in front of the store where it has been since at least 2008. I don't know if it was ever part of the pole sign by the road or if this sign was acquired from another location. This sign is probably from the 1960s or 1970s. [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
Alesi's Pizza House was established in 1957. The sign appears to be from then. The chef's arm and pizza are animated. 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 [gone]
Grayling, MI
Cassano Pizza King
Fairfield, OH
Deano's Pizza [gone]
Fillmore, UT
Bear's Den Pizzeria featured two painted plywood pizza chef signs, mirror images of each other. By 2023, these signs were replaced with text signs.

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). 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 were made of painted plywood. This place closed around 2012. This photo is from 2014. By 2021, the building and signs were gone.

Hideaway Pizza
Oklahoma City, OK
Johnny Sortino's
Pizza Parlor
Omaha, NE
The first Hideaway Pizza opened in Stillwater, OK in 1957. There are now about 20 locations in Oklahoma and Arkansas. This location opened in 2011 and the sign was built then. The flying pizza is animated. [map]

Johnny Sortino's Pizza Parlor opened in 1965. There was originally a neon sign with a similar design. This sign was installed around 2014. For more, see this website. [map]

More Pizza Chef Signs:
Pinocchio's Pizza (Gilroy, CA) [gone]
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]
Sam's Italian Food (Lewiston, ME) [map]
Lisa's Pizza (Old Orchard Beach, ME) [map]
Pizza Inn (Cherokee, NC) [gone]
Continental Restaurant (Jamestown, ND) [vintage; gone]
Master Pizza (Clifton, NJ) [map]
Alex's Pizzeria and Steak House (Vineland, NJ)
Bradlee's Pizzeria (Wayne, NJ) [gone]
Tony's Pizza (Brooklyn, NY) [gone]
Grand Avenue Pizza (Queens, NY) [gone]
Orlando's Pizza Shop (East Liverpool, OH) [gone]
J&G Pizza Palace (Sylvania, OH) [map]
Vincent's Pizza Park (Braddock, PA) [map]
Colonial Pizza & Spaghetti House (Easton, PA) [map]
Tony's Pizza (Cayce, SC) [map]
Carl's Pizza West (Kenosha, WI) [gone]
Pizza Man: 1, 2 (Superior, WI) [map]
Tom's House of Pizza (Calgary, AB) [map]
Pizza Palace (Grand Bend, ON) [map]
Camden Market (London, England)
Pizza Plus (Limassol, Cyprus)

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

Pizza Chef Statues:
Jo Jo (Pizza Inn) (West Helena, AR) [gone]
Vince's Pizza (Rochelle, IL)
Bottle Shed Bar & Liquor Store (Stockton, IL)
Sugar Grove Family Fun Center (Sugar Grove, IL) [map]
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) [gone]
Franconi's Pizza (Wildwood, NJ) [map]
David's Pizza (Lebanon, TN) [map]
Little Caesars (various cities)

Main SCA Article
Companion Page
Main Signs Page