If you’ve set foot through the door at Davanni’s on Cleveland and Grand more than a couple of times, it’s likely that general manager Rocco Preese knows your name. And if you grew up in the neighborhood, he probably knows your parents and now your own children. That’s something that the longtime manager takes pride in, helping create a feeling of community at the local pizza shop that has become something of an institution in the neighborhood.
When Mick Stenson, Bob Carlson and Roger Schelper opened the first Davanni’s in 1975, then known as Pontillo’s (the original Pontillo’s opened in Batavia, N.Y., in 1947) they never dreamed they were starting a pizza legacy. Davanni’s original location on Cleveland and Grand offered a menu with nine different hoagies and the first New York-style pizza in the Twin Cities.
At the time, the 30-seat restaurant took over space formerly leased to Alcoholics Anonymous. In 2004, the renamed Davanni’s purchased the building. Over the years, the neighborhood pizza shop has expanded more than once and currently seats 120 people. Although they have changed over the years, the commitment to quality remains.
Your Hometown Pizzeria
“When we started out, this was really more of a side investment,” Stenson says about the restaurant that now has 22 locations. “As we went on, we found out how popular it was and our thoughts changed quickly from our original intentions.”
Offering local brews such as Summit, Fulton and Surly for the past year, Davanni’s plans to add a tap bar to its Cleveland and Grand shop in 2016, with some of its customers’ favorite local craft beers, as well as bar seating.
It’s All About the People
If you ask anyone who has worked at Davanni’s what makes it so special, the answer you’ll get is “the people,” the genuine, family-oriented culture that makes the pizza shop a place where people return.
In the case of Cleveland and Grand, general manager Preese is a large part of what makes customers feel so welcome. Working at the location for more than 27 years (and being part of the Davanni’s family for more than 35 years), Preese has worked hard to make his pizza shop a fun place to visit.
“I spend a lot of time getting to know people,” Preese says. “They are more than just customers. And things like that make [my job] special day to day.”
It’s this dedication to people both outside and within the company that has made employees stick around for the long haul. More than 25 percent of the employees at Cleveland and Grand have worked at that location for more than 10 years. And many of the Davanni’s employees have parents, aunts, uncles and siblings who have worked for Davanni’s.
A Good Neighbor
Over the past 40 years, the Davanni’s on Cleveland and Grand has made a mark on the community. Davanni’s fundraisers are popular among neighborhood schools and organizations. The pizza shop sponsors a number of area youth athletic teams, along with Minnesota Youth Athletic Sports, which supports almost 1,000 baseball and basketball teams and tournaments.
Want to try something new?
Try these employee favorites!
- Mick Stenson, CEO: Turkey bacon chipotle hoagie on grain bread.
- Kristy Stenson Silva, co-owner: Garlic cheese bread or pizza with pink sauce.
- Rocco Preese, general manager: Pepperoni, sausage, chicken and pineapple calzone.
- Bob Stupka, president: Traditional sausage and pepperoni pizza.