Local Pizzerias Defy the Corporate Restaurant Steamroller

“For a college graduate who didn’t have the slightest idea what he’d do in life, Ed Rathmann sure did well in the restaurant business with his popular pizzeria in San Jose celebrating its 20th anniversary — a milestone for any independent joint going up against chain restaurants,” according to the Mercury News.

“When you’re a corporate restaurant with 500 places, how do you have really good food?” asked Rathmann this week inside the warm confines of his red-brick Willow Street Wood-Fired Pizza — which opened in 1991, the day after Christmas. “We succeed by offering casual dining, catering to families and finding the right locations.”

The original right spot was Willow Glen, a cozy, old neighborhood with a healthy Lincoln Ave. main drag and middle-class residents who love to dine locally at reasonable prices. Not that Rathmann knew it two decades ago — no marketing surveys in sight.

“Are you kidding?” he says today. “It was all instinct.”