Giuseppe’s Pizza: A Slice of Tradition

Giuseppe's Pizza: A Slice of Tradition

Last updated on July 3rd, 2024 at 03:38 pm

If not from Monroe, MI, it may be easy to pass by Giuseppe’s Pizza without realizing the rich Sicilian family history that lies within. Founded by Joann and Giuseppe Cusumano, the restaurant has been a local favorite since opening in 2003. Recently moving to a new location in the South Monroe Plaza, the legacy of hard work, family values, and commitment to their community continues under their youngest son, Tony, and his wife, Stephanie. 

“We have generations of families that have come here. We’ve been in the community for 40 years within a two-and-a-half-mile radius,” Tony said. 

The Next Generation of Giuseppe’s Pizza

Tony and Stephanie’s journey together began in high school, where they met and dated before going their separate ways. During this time, Tony worked at Ford Motor Company, attended school for maintenance, and had a stint with IBEW Local 8. Despite his busy schedule, Tony always found time to help out at the pizzeria. “I always liked it. I always liked being able to figure out how to produce more, make more, and do new items, and that’s what really hooked me on things,” said Tony. 

Stephanie, who was opening restaurants for Max & Erma’s while living in Columbus, moved back home to go to culinary school, got back together with Tony, and ended up working at Giuseppe’s on the side. With both of their backgrounds and experience combined, they took over the family business and started to corporatize it a bit more. 

Growing up at the restaurant, seeing his mother write the menu out by hand and dad making food by eye, Tony knew there were ways he could improve the business. He said, “I would sneak around while my dad was building his components, and I would weigh them out and just randomly write down what he had done. It took me three or four years of doing that to come up with an average and then figure out a standard for my recipe.” 

Family and Community

While those days are gone, the family atmosphere and why the employees love working there has not changed. While the restaurant closed and relocated to its new location, the staff followed. “We have an amazing staff that’s been with us for a while—they even waited for us to reopen,” said Stephanie. “Just walking in here, it’s just like being at home and I like that. It’s just like family. I like working with people where I can make a difference in their life.”  

It’s no wonder that working at Giuseppe’s pizza feels like being part of a family, especially when you hear Tony talk about the staff, saying “I’m most proud of my employees. They know what I expect, and they expect the same. It’s really been a blessing to have them come back and be a part of the whole process. Ryan’s the right-hand man and Joe is the left hand and it’s great having both sides.” 

Tony’s right-hand man, Ryan Mueller, has worked for Giuseppe’s for 14 years, while Joe Smigielski has been with them for 10. When asked what motivates him to come to work every day, Ryan said, “The people. They are just like family pretty much. My grandma was really good friends with their family. I got a job here and it became like home. Work is work, but the people are what make it.” 

Tony’s parents still play a role in the business, even if they’re not involved in the day-to-day operations. He said, “They come in and inspect. My dad actually came in a couple of weeks ago and was like, ‘I wasn’t going to say anything, but this is one of your problems,’ and he was totally right. I fixed that problem and even though he’s 82 years old, I’m still learning things from him even though he’s not even a part of the day-to-day stuff.” 

Partnering with Burkett

In 2017, Tony was looking for equipment and discovered Burkett Restaurant Equipment & Supplies. He said, “The pricing’s good. Everything’s solid. It’s just very competitive pricing no matter how I looked at it and they’re easy to communicate with.” When it was time to temporarily close the pizzeria in the summer of 2022 and prepare for their new location, he knew just who to go to. 

Tony and Stephanie met with Account Executive Nathan Beucler who works with customers on Burkett’s design and build projects. “Burkett’s been a big help. Just being able to sit down with Nathan and getting an idea of how we want to set it up, and the communication between Nathan and my architect was really nice. It helped get my plans, my thoughts on paper. I had an idea of how I wanted it, and then we started piecing it together over time,” said Tony. Stephanie echoed this sentiment, praising Nathan’s support and responsiveness throughout the project. 

Giuseppe’s Pizza: New Location, Same Quality

Their new space boasts top-of-the-line equipment from Burkett, an expanded menu, and exciting new offerings while still retaining the beloved family recipes and high-quality ingredients that have made Giuseppe’s a community favorite. Known for their pastas, meatballs, subs, and pizzas, many turn to ‘Joe’s Chicken’, the ‘Ten Topper Pizza’, or ‘Tony’s Gourmet Pizza’ when they are hungry. 

“Joe’s chicken is probably the main reason people get our chicken dinners. Old school Italian breaded chicken with what I’d like to call Italian salsa, but it goes on top of that,” said Tony. “The 10 Topper Pizza is a big hit and my Tony’s Gourmet Pizza is a no sauce, olive oil base pizza that comes with our Joe’s chicken cut up on there. We season it up right, it’s a little lighter, and people really like that style.” 

Tony’s focus on ergonomics and having a modular setup has allowed the pizzeria to adapt quickly to different prep scenarios at different times of the day, ensuring that quality is never compromised. “A lot of the equipment I can move around at any point at any time to accommodate to whatever we’re working on today,” he said. 

In terms of his favorite equipment from Burkett, Tony recommends True, stating “It feels better insulated, the hardware feels better, it’s just good stuff.” He is also partial to a 40-year-old Hobart mixer which he named ‘Kevin’ 15 years ago. The mixer has been cleaned up and clear coated in its original luster because Tony always wanted to remember where Giuseppe’s started. While he didn’t get the mixer from Burkett, we can’t avoid the humor in his description of it saying, “He likes to go to the party and mix it up. That’s what Kevin does.” 

Continuing the Legacy

Giuseppe’s Pizza remains a testament to the Cusumano family’s hard work, resilience, and passion for good food. “All I care about is making food that I’ll eat and that’s what I do. If I don’t eat it, I won’t sell it. That’s just the way I look at it,” said Tony. The history of the pizzeria looks to be continuing as Tony and Stephanie’s children, ages 6 and 9, are already showing interest in the family business, too. 

“They’re learning. They’re starting to want to learn how to make pizzas and I want them to be involved but I don’t want them to be involved. I grew up in the party store. I slept there. I don’t want them to get burned out. You just tell them no and then they want to help,” Tony said. 

As they look to the future, Tony and Stephanie are dedicated to preserving the legacy started by Joe and Joann, ensuring that Giuseppe’s Pizza continues to be a cherished part of the Monroe community for generations to come.