At 50, Hi-Way Pizza still committed to roots

Andy Zangrilli was only 22 years old when he partnered with and then bought a pizza place from Al Sicola, a man he worked for in 1963.

Fifty years later, Hi-Way Pizza has continued to be a staple in the community, known for its pizza, Italian food and friendly atmosphere.

Jennifer Zangrilli, director of operations and the daughter of Andy Zangrilli, said her father started a small shop in 1963 in the bar area of where The Deli & Z-Bar is located, first selling pizza by the slice.

After years of moving locations around downtown State College, the restaurant finally settled at its current location, 1688 N. Atherton St., in the early 1980s.

Zangrilli said her father began working in the restaurant business in his early teens. She said, growing up in Altoona, he would drive to Philipsburg to work at a Hi-Way Pizza restaurant with Sicola. At 19, he became a manager, and in 1963, he bought out the pizza place, Jennifer Zangrilli said.

By 1970, Andy Zangrilli then opened two more Hi-Way Pizza locations as well as a retail gourmet food store called Cornucopia.

“Pizza is something he loved and, as small as State College was, it was a good opportunity and he noticed there was an open market in terms of a restaurant and pizza place,” Jennifer Zangrilli said.

As a way to assure fresh food, Zangrilli said The Commissary was later formed — a private facility where all breads, pizza dough, pizza sauce, pasta dough, pasta sauces, dressings and desserts are made.

She added that bakers started at midnight and worked through the night so that the restaurants were able to offer their customers homemade products.

“He really pioneered using local. He would buy all produce from local State College farmers. In the pizza industry, everything has to be fresh to be good,” Zangrilli said. “It’s an Italian’s philosophy to use ingredients that are local and readily available in the season. That’s what true Italian cuisine is. Italy is the essence that drives the restaurant.”

From Hi-Way Pizza, Zangrilli said her father’s love of restaurants expanded. She said the Hi-Way Pizza places merged into one restaurant and, in 1990, created Mario’s from them and as part of Dante’s Restaurants & Nightlife Inc. that also includes Hi-Way Pizza, The Deli & Z-Bar, Mario’s, Inferno, The Saloon, Bar Bleu and The Hophop.

“It’s not just about running a business, but being a part of the community,” Zangrilli said. “And the main thing is that we’re still fresh from scratch and still locally owned.”