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Collage of old photos of the Rosati family throughout the years
Franchisee Stories

Rosati’s: A Brief History

If you’re thinking of buying a franchise, you need to know the whole story behind the brands you’re looking to invest in. Sometimes, a company’s history can tell you more about it than its current activity. Today, Rosati’s is a successful Chicago-style pizza franchise with more than 200 locations nationwide. But how it became successful is just as important as every one of those locations. Today we offer a brief history of Rosati’s, in hopes that our company’s inspiring past can offer clarity for those considering franchise ownership today.

Italians in New York City

The 1890s were a time of civil unrest and economic hardship across much of Italy, especially for the poor. Many Italians sought to find a more stable and prosperous life in the United States. More than 600,000 Italians came to the United States through Ellis Island in the 1890s, about twice as many as in the previous decade. The vast majority were poor ex-farmers who were looking for any kind of work, but many took to entrepreneurship to build themselves a life in their new country. 

At the time, Italian cuisine was not yet the popular craze it is today. New York City, now famous for its pies, did not have an Italian pizzeria until Gennaro Lombardi’s establishment opened in 1905 in Little Italy. Among the Italian immigrants to arrive in the 1890s was Saverio (Sam) Rosati, who opened an Italian restaurant in New York City.

Move to Chicago

While he offered a variety of delicious food from his homeland, Sam Rosati did not offer pizza at his New York restaurant. That changed, however, after the turn of the century, when the Rosatis relocated to Chicago. Rosati introduced an “Italian style pizza” at his restaurant there, but it was only an appetizer that barely resembled a modern pizza. It was also in Chicago that Sam started his family with wife Anna. They had ten children, the first of whom was Ferdinand, or “Fred” as he came to be known, born in 1917. 

Growing up in Chicago’s Italian community, Fred developed an affinity for his father’s Italian food, and especially for the sausage that would become his favorite pizza topping. Fred served in World War II and started his own family when he came home to Chicago. Fred’s son Jeff recalls when his father would bring home ingredients and a small pizza oven to make a personal pizza for the family. It was in Chicago that Jeff’s grandfather, Sam, eventually perfected the pizza that would define his family’s future business.

Family Franchise

Seeking to grow their father’s already successful pizza restaurant, two of Fred’s brothers officially founded Rosati’s Pizza in 1964. Fred and his sons followed up by establishing the franchise business in the 1970s. Throughout this time the Rosati family worked to codify and standardize the old-world Italian recipes that formed the foundation of the business. Fred, however, was particularly adamant about customer service, and had a reputation as a jovial personality who stayed active in the business until he passed away in 2020 at the age of 102.

The fusion of quality recipes with natural ingredients and fine customer service has become a tradition that Fred’s sons and the rest of the Rosati’s family aim to pass on to every franchise owner and customer. Find out more about a Rosati’s franchise opportunity near you—we’d love to welcome you to the family and help you carry on our great traditions!



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