MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ronnally’s Pizza and Pasta in Woodbury has always been a family business, but it wasn’t always the same family.
Diana Ehlenz is the chief cheerleader and marketer, her husband Greg runs operations, and their daughter Taylor is a manager.
“It’s a real family business,” Diana said.
Ronn and Allison Henry opened the pizza spot in 1973, when Woodbury was mostly made up of farm fields. They had a couple “Ronn & Ally’s” in town, including a White Bear Avenue restaurant on the location that is now The Little Oven. They sold the restaurants in the 1990s, and the Woodbury spot came up for sale again in 2015.
“It must have been fate. I went to dry cleaners to pick up clothes, and ran into a vacant pizza joint,” Diana said.
She was looking to move on from her job at a senior care facility, her husband was looking for a career change after a lifetime in banking. They had considered buying a franchise, but fell in love with the idea of preserving a unique, family-owned concept.
“We’ve seen so many restaurants come and go, so many chains, that’s what makes it worth giving up our life for. Carrying on that history,” Diana said.
Three years ago, they bought the business, the equipment, and the original Ronnally recipes for pizza, sandwiches, and an extremely popular red pasta sauce.
“It’s a secret recipe. If I told you what’s in it, we’d be in big trouble,” Diana said.
Hand-tossed pizzas, an Italian Dago sandwich, a meatball sub on cheesy garlic bread, epic mac and cheese. The idea was to preserve the history, not to mess with it.
“We kept the same recipe, we haven’t changed anything,” she said.
The family focus has helped the new owners get the next generation of Ronnally’s fans, creating a family-friendly restaurant where children can draw on butcher paper on the tables, and are welcomed into the kitchen to watch the cooks.
Thirty-two years of marriage for the Ehlenz’s, they say the last three as restaurant owners have been the most challenging.
“If I leave the restaurant, I get the infamous phone call: ‘The cooler went out!’ That’s the biggest challenge we’ve had,” said Greg, who wasn’t quite prepared for the job to be 24/7.
“Working together is a daunting task, but we’ve survived,” Diana added.
“We survived more based on you and your marketing. Without her, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Greg said.
Huge serving sizes and friendly people, you can feel and taste the generations of love on every plate at Ronnally’s.
“We love it, we love every minute of it, Carrying on a good name,” Diana said.
1560 Woodlane Dr.
Woodbury, MN 55125