By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The first time you lay your eyes on a pizza from Mike and Barb Latuff’s in Plymouth: you’ll see it’s different.

“It’s good to be different,” said Barb.

It’s not the taste that’s different: they’re using the same dough recipe made fresh every morning like it’s been since 1971. The red sauce is the same initial recipe. They’ve even used the same mozzarella cheese since day one. The difference at Latuff’s is the cut.

“It’s a diagonal cut,” Mike explained. On a large pizza the pizza cutter makes 5 long slices in one direction, and then slices 4 more times on the diagonal intersecting. It creates 29 pieces of pizza, most of them parallelograms.

“It’s easier to pick up, easier to eat I think. Smaller pieces,” said Barb.

The shape of the slice is far from the biggest risk the Latuffs have taken in building this suburban Twin Cities institution.

“Yeah we were both 24,” said Mike Latuff. “It was a big risk.”

“I thought he was crazy,” responded his wife.

Mike and Barb had been saving money to buy a house, Mike was working 60 to 70 hours a week as a cook. “Working that hard, I figured why not at least be working for myself,” he said. Instead of buying a house, they risked it all to open a pizza place.

“Back in the 70s it was cow town out here. Hay fields. No stop lights on 55. On a Friday night we’d be in a back booth playing cards and if a car went up 55 we’d get excited,” said Barb.

Today: Latuff’s is the oldest restaurant in the now bustling city of Plymouth. A true family business. Barb’s brother Dan Mascaro has worked here since nearly the beginning. And now the second generation is taking over.

“It’s definitely a lot of work and we take pride in it,” said Danny Latuff, spreading sauce and toppings on pizzas during a busy lunch in the kitchen. Continuing the family business “means a lot,” he said.

The business grew organically, according to the owners. “We couldn’t afford to advertise, and we took care of the people who came through the door and they were our advertisements,” said Mike.

But in true Minnesota fashion, people didn’t want the word to spread too quickly. “One lady told me, I don’t want to tell too many people because it’ll ruin it,” said Barb.

There are no shortcuts here: red sauce for pasta simmers for hours, the lasagna is made by hand and baked in individual ramikens in the pizza oven, daughter Michelle makes an epic brownie dessert.

But the main attraction will always be that home-made, diagonal cut, pizza. Just as it’s been for nearly 50 years.

“It’s incredible to us. It is incredible,” said the Latuffs.

Jason DeRusha