Home Run Inn (homeruninn.com) began in 1923as a small tavern on Chicago’s South Side. Foundedby Mary and Vincent Grittani, the tavern receivedits name when a baseball from the neighborhoodpark flew through one of the windows. It wasn’t until son-in-law Nick Perrino returned from an Army stint War II that Nick and Mary began experimenting with pizzarecipes. By 1947, they were giving pizza out to bar patrons toattract the drinking crowd, but when people started requestingthe pizza specifically, they decided to sell pies, both in-store andto the masses. “In the 1950s, we were one of the first places in thecountry to do frozen pizzas; my grandfather would par-bake pizzasand sell them to grocery stores for retail,” says Dan Costello,president of the restaurant division and grandson of Nick. Today,that frozen pizza legacy has expanded widely: Home Run frozenpizzas are now available in more than 20 states and are made atthe same commissary that prepares all major ingredients (dough, sauce, cheese and sausage) for the restaurants.
However, expansion happened relatively slowly: First, the tavern embraced its pizzeria status and expanded froma 10-seat bar to a 50-seat restaurant; today, the original location seats 600. The second location, in Darien, Illinois,opened in 1987 under current CEO Joe Perrino, son of Nick. But despite having grown to eight locations (withplans to open another four to six stores in the next few years), the company is still a family business—and a hit withfamilies. “We love to hear the pizza stories people tell us, abouthow couples went on their first date here or kids remembergoing with their fathers after a baseball game,” says Costello.Accordingly, recent marketing efforts have targeted families,such as the Sunday Fun Day events the stores are holding inOctober, with free ice cream scoops for kids, face paintingand magicians, creating experiences that kids will rememberwhen they grow up—and securing a new generation of HomeRun Inn fans.