By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — To make it more than 55 years in the restaurant business, it takes more than a great crust, or sauce or toppings. And Mama’s Pizza is more than just its terrific pizza.

“This is a generation restaurant. It’s not just the pizza, it’s the people who come in to see our staff,” said Geri Mudzinski, who along with her brother, Tony, and sister, Gina, run Mama’s Pizza on Rice Street in St. Paul.

“It’s family. We hire our employees, and they stay with us forever,” she said, sitting next to her head pizza cook, Brian Welle, who’s been with Mama’s for nearly 20 years.

Founded by Geri’s uncle, a restaurateur and former St. Paul police officer in 1964, her mom Peachie took over in the 70s. Geri was just a little kid.

“Oh yeah, very early memories. It’s a much bigger business than it was 30, 40 years ago,” said Geri.

Today online orders fill the giant screen in the pizza kitchen. It’s a hot spot for State Capitol politicians and a favorite of Minnesota Vikings players.

The pizza hasn’t changed.

“Identical. No changes, we haven’t changed the recipes at all,” Geri laughed.

Same sauce. Same home-made sausage, piled on. They still grind the Wisconsin part-skim mozzarella into small pellets that spread and cook evenly.

“It makes the pizza a little gooeyer, it’s a better texture all around,” Welle said.

The Mudzinskis see themselves as survivors: They’ve made it through a burst water pipe which flooded the place in 2007. St. Paul Firefighters saved their building when two neighboring businesses burned. And twice, cars have taken pick-up to an extreme, crashing into the building.

“It’s not easy. We put in a lot of hours. We all put in a lot of hours,” Geri said.

Servings are big and messy. You might need a bib before diving into Mama’s Italian cheese fries, dipped in their legendary red spaghetti sauce. Lasagna is the size of your head. The hot dago sandwich is covered with cheese, spilling onto the hot platter below.

It’s pizza that fills your heart, all under the watchful eye of Mama.

“Oh, she’d be so proud. She’d be really happy,” Geri said. “She’d be glad we’re all doing this together.”

Mama’s Pizza
961 Rice Street, Saint Paul 55117
Monday-Friday 11 a.m. -8:30 p.m.
Saturday/Sunday 4 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Jason DeRusha