Photos by Rick Daugherty, Denise Greer & Josh Keown
As you might imagine, we interact with a variety of pizza operations on a daily basis. We deal with large chains and small independents alike, and their individual stories never cease to fascinate us. Each pizzeria is unique in its own right. To that end, we set out to find some of America’s most unique pizzeria locations. We weren’t necessarily looking for a unique theme as much as we sought out a truly unique location or building. What we found was fascinating, and ranges from pizzerias inside old covered bridges to junkyards turned pizzeria –– and we visited each one.
Take a look for yourself.
Jail House Pizza
Built in 1906, the old Meade County, Kentucky, jail is the site of this original –– and reportedly haunted ––pizzeria. Guests can dine in padlocked cells (womens’ downstairs and men upstairs) or in the adjacent dining room, which overlooks the Ohio River. Not to be missed? The trapdoor used for hangings.
Organ Stop Pizza
Nothing goes with pizza like “The Phantom of the Opera” or the Star Wars theme song. At Organ Stop Pizza, the organist makes a grand entrance every evening — he suddenly appears from below the stage and fills the restaurant with sound as diners enjoy the fare. Talk about unique!
This is not your average burgers and fries drive-in. When Al, Gus and Arthur Peroulas opened Pizza Palace in 1961, they came up with the idea of serving pizza and Italian fare to customers in the comfort of their cars. It worked. The drive-in has become a Knoxville landmark. It’s also been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.
Some people love race cars, others love quilts and some just love plain old “junk.” The coolest junkyard in America — and one of the coolest pizzerias — is a favorite Gainesville hotspot.
Signal Station Pizza
Located in a historic gas station, this pizzeria is truly a local spot. The garage doors open up for al fresco dining, and the small interior leaves just enough room for a conveyor oven, a few taps of local beer, a counter for ice cream and a makeline. It’s at night — with its retro neon — when this pizzeria really shines!
Puccini’s Hometown Grille
Cumberland Gap, MD
This wood-fired pizzeria is situated in the historic 1818 Hinkle House. The residence served as a Civil War Hospital during the Battle at Folck’s Mill. Venturing up to the restaurant’s third floor attic, visitors can see etchings in the plaster on the walls from wounded Union and Confederate soldiers.
Sheboygan Falls, WI
Like many old buildings in small towns, Firehouse Pizza has been a number of things, including an elementary school, factories for carriages and cheese equipment and an auto supply store. It was also once the town’s city hall, police department and fire station, for which it takes its current appearance. It kept the theme of a bicycle shop when it expanded into the business next door.
Pizza might just be a spiritual experience at this pizzeria in a remodeled Jewish temple. The original stained glass windows and loft chandeliers illuminate its interior. The bar sits in the former Pulpit area. The Gothic brick structure was built in 1891 and served as a Presbyterian church, synagogue, social hall and school before Joe Bologne’s opened in 1989.
Covered Bridge Pizza
Patrons eat inside an authentic 1862 covered bridge at this pizzeria in Andover, Ohio — one of two bridge parlors the pizza company owns. The 126-foot, 55-ton Forman Road Covered Bridge was cut in half and reassembled into the two pizza parlor locations — North Kingsville in 1975 and Andover in 1977. Only the original wood was used in the creation of the dining rooms, giving customers an old-fashioned dining experience.
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