Since 1958, Corsi’s has relied on the personal touch to build a loyal following in Livonia, Michigan.

In 1958, Italian immigrants Rocco and Adelia Corsi moved to Livonia, Michigan, where a few family members had a pizzeria—and helped them grab their own slice of the pie. Corsi’s (corsisbanquethalls.net) opened with pasta dishes featuring homemade sauces and pizza crafted through painstaking trial and error by the couple. Even though Italian restaurants were almost unheard of in the area, a prime location near a new subdivision and shopping mall helped spread the word about the humble mom-and-pop shop. “They had a one-acre garden they’d bring in produce from,” says Penny Corsi, an owner and daughter-in-law of Rocco and Adelia, “and they’d make all their own soups and pastas, like gnocchi and lasagna.”

Eventually, other items, including veal and chicken main courses, were added to feed hungry diners, while in 1979 a new 300-seat banquet hall was built to host parties and special events (to this day, catering and banquet sales are a major focus of the operation). Meanwhile, the 45-seat restaurant does brisk business with dine-in and carryout patrons who have frequented the business through generations.

But remaining competitive in an ever-changing neighborhood and tough economic times requires effort: The pizzeria regularly supports charities (such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation), hosts promotions with the local high school, offers online coupons and attracts customers with direct mailing programs. On the first Wednesday of each month, a buffet feast brings in families for unlimited pizzas, pastas and mains. “You’ll find fancier buildings, but not better food,” Penny laughs. “Probably 99% of people order the same thing every time they come in; for pizzas, we’re known for our great pepperoni, fresh ingredients and handmade dough.”

Indeed, the pizza has nabbed many “best of” awards in Livonia, but Corsi’s real secret weapon is its personal touch. Rocco and Adelia eventually passed the business to their sons, Louie and Dino (who both grew up in the business), and their wives, Penny and Karen—one of whom is always at Corsi’s to ensure quality control. “You need a lot of hard work and dedication to be in this business,” Penny notes. “You need to give people a great product and never skimp on quality. It’s something you have to put your heart and soul into.”