25 Years of Willington Pizza
by Jeff Kelly
The restaurant that made Willington famous has just turned twenty five and Jeff Kelly, owner and President, couldn't be happier. To celebrate, he is giving an entire year's worth of pizza to one lucky customer, free.
"I wanted to do something to show how much I appreciate my customers, " said Kelly, "Willington Pizza would not be the successful business it is today without them."
The winner of the year's worth of pizza was randomly chosen on August 14, 2003. The 25th customer to walk through the doors to pick up take out would be the winner. And the winner is : Willington residents Sharon and Richard Bigge (much to their delight)
Twenty Five years is quite a long time: back then Carter was president, Disco
was King, and America was in love with little Gary Coleman. Amidst this all,
Willington Pizza opened its doors as a 12 seat take-out operation. Business
has been good for Mr. Kelly, and since that time he has expanded into a 200-plus
seat restaurant featuring a full menu of specialty pizzas, entrees, and appetizers.
So good that he needed to open a second restaurant, Willington Pizza Too in
to meet the demand.
Just how successful is Willington Pizza? From 1993 to the present Willington Pizza has been selected as one of the Top 100 Independent Pizza Restaurants in the U.S. by PIzza Today Magazine, the industry leading publication. It has had national coverage in The New York Times, "Good Morning America," and "CBS This Morning". When hearing of the ingredients of ever-popular Red Potato Pizza, Harry Smith, the then-anchor of "CBS This Morning" said, "that sounds awful"
Not to be dismissed, Marc Amtower, general manager, challenged Mr. Smith to try the restaurant's popular pizza before deciding. "I knew how great the pizza was," said Amtower recently, "I wanted to prove to Harry that pizza can be more than just sauce and cheese."
And so in the summer of 1994, he and Rich Rogers, the creator of the Red Potato, took a trip to New York to show Mr. Smith the error of his ways. After tasting the Red Potato, Smith declared, "This is really very good." The national exposure has been a boon for this small town pizzaria. Folk come from all over the U.S. to sample the specialty pizzas.
Willington Pizza has not only won over news anchors, but the critics as well. At the National Pizza Festival Contest in 1994, the Red Potato took top honors for "best exotic pizza". As if that were not enough, the Seafood Casino pizza won 1st place for "best Seafood Pizza". These two pizzas were then featured at the Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.
Since 1990, the instate awards have kept piling up. Willington Pizza has been voted best pizza in Tolland County by the readers of Connecticut Magazine every year for the past 13 years. The University of Connecticut students agree: The Daily Campus has voted Willington Pizza as best pizza every year since 1990
Another great draw for the pizza loving crowd is the atmosphere. Willington Pizza is housed within a 250 year old farm house and antiques cover all the walls. One could spend days perusing the historic paraphernalia. Looking for a sportier atmosphere? Head on down to Willington Too and dine while watching the game. Buffalo Wings, Onion Rings, and the finest draft beers go great with Monday Night Football.
Jeff Kelly not only supplies the community with food, but helps out in any way he can. He sponsors over 30 local sports teams, School reading programs. Every year he supports 4 different project graduations.
Jeff Kelly, President WPH
Marc Amtower, General Manager, WPH
Rich Rogers, Chef WPH
John Prandy, General Manager, WP Too
Willington Pizza House (WPH)
25 River Road (RTE. 32)
Willington, CT 06279
Modified & Maintained by: Nick Lupacchino