Sam’s Pizza: Pies with Personality
Sam Leone’s personality and prices can give the first-timer quite a start.
“When we first moved here five years ago, I called to order a pizza,” Mary Tillman shared. “He said come in 20 minutes and bring $17,000. I told my husband, ‘I think we’re buying a pizza place.’ “
He’s a bit quirky, you see.
“Sam’s Pizza! What’d ya want?!” he’ll holler though his thick accent and into his old handset, taking your order. He never writes anything down, quotes you prices in the thousands and always has something clever to say when you walk though his door.
On busy nights, you might as well forget calling. All the locals know a busy signal means ol’ Sammy has put the handset of its cradle and you’ve got to do your ordering face-to-face.
His pizza joint isn’t much to look at–just a little building in the middle of a big slab of parking lot, looking a bit lonely on Columbia Ave. Inside, you’ll find a handful of tables, faded wallpaper, a listing of prices and toppings on an old-fashioned sign… and Sam.
Clad in the same uniform he’s been wearing for decades–white t-shirt on his chest, white apron around his waist, small gold chain around his neck and flour-topped shoes on his feet–Sam is beloved by local folks. Many a Oglesby resident will tell you tales of sitting on Sam’s counter or peeking around it as a youngster, watching Sam toss dough circles and accepting bits of mozzarella cheese from his mother, who worked alongside him for years.
In fact, it seems memories of Sam’s Pizza are much like the pizzas themselves–good and warm, ready for the sharing.
Kathy Casstevens says she fondly remembers the buzz of the lights in Sam’s pizza parlor and the taste of hot pizza late on a summer night.
What junior high basketball player, cheerleader and fan hasn’t packed into the tables, enjoying a post-game dinner?
“He has fed four generations of my family,” Nick Ebner said.
“My husband and I went to Sam’s on our first date!” writes Sally Sobin. “We have been married for 25 years.”
“When I was a kid, I don’t know what made me happier, that we were getting pizza for dinner or my grandma holding out the phone so I could hear Sam yell, ‘Sams a peets!’ into the phone before she ordered,” says Amy Raygoza.
If he doesn’t win you with his antics, Sam will undoubtedly win you with his pies. Hand tossed and made fresh, loaded with toppings and remarkably affordable, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better pizza in the area.
Sam’s Pizza is open Tuesday through Sunday evenings and is just a couple turns away from Oglesby hotels, on Columbia Avenue.
(Photos courtesy of James Krancic, Vermillion River Photography.)