LaRosa’s celebrates 60 years of great food and great service

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The West Side of Cincinnati has always been known for its culture and customs which separate it from the rest of the city. West Siders are notably bound by their high school loyalties and the fact that most people seem to know each other. It is home to community landmarks such as Thelma’s, Price Hill Chili, and Elder High School. One West Side enterprise, LaRosa’s Pizzeria, is celebrating 60 years of business.

LaRosa's at 2411 Boudinot Avenue has been serving the West Side for 60 years.
LaRosa’s at 2411 Boudinot Avenue has been serving the West Side for 60 years.

In March of 1954, Donald “Buddy” LaRosa opened the doors of his pizzeria on Boudinot Avenue. The restaurant was an almost instant hit in the neighborhood. Customers flocked to the Italian restaurant for the pizzeria’s unique pizza recipe which included sweet sauce and provolone cheese. Alongside the now-famous pizza, LaRosa’s also offered other delicacies such as spaghetti.

In 1970, tragedy struck when a fire burned Buddy’s brainchild to the ground. LaRosa’s had become so important to the community that an army of volunteers from area high schools aided in the rebuilding process. Whereas he thought his business was done for, LaRosa’s was rebuilt in just five weeks.

After the fire, LaRosa’s has not only been rebuilt, but it has also expanded. Sixty years after opening, there are LaRosa’s Pizzerias all over the Greater Cincinnati area. There are locations in Harrison, White Oak, Delhi, and even as far north as Dayton.

When one walks into the first LaRosa’s restaurant at 2411 Boudinot Avenue, they are met with the West Side in a nutshell. Enjoying the food are people of every race, age, grade school, and local high school. Above the bar, there is a collection of football helmets from Elder, Oak Hills, LaSalle, St. Xavier, and others. The hallway to the restrooms is adorned with Hank Zureick’s Buddy LaRosa’s Sports about accomplished high school athletes.

Buddy LaRosa's Sports by Hank Zureick line the hall to the restrooms.
Buddy LaRosa’s Sports by Hank Zureick line the hall to the restrooms.

While LaRosa’s is famous for its delicious food and friendly atmosphere, for many people, it is also much more than a restaurant. To some, it could be the spot of a first date or where friends reunite after years apart. To others, it is where they celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, sports victories, and family. It’s not just about the food, it’s the memories.

Manager Travis Rose said that LaRosa’s has earned its special place in the community due to its involvement.

“We (LaRosa’s) get involved with community things. We get involved in a lot of stuff, especially a lot of stuff with sports and academics when it comes to a lot of the high schools in the area. Even local businesses, we support. We support other local businesses as well as other ones support us, like Skyline, Price Hill Chili, and all the good ones,” explained the 2002 LaSalle graduate.

It is true that the business’s involvement in the community is pervasive. At almost any parish festival, a LaRosa’s pizza trailer can be seen catering to the masses. LaRosa’s gives money to a host of organizations and charities ranging from the Freestore Foodbank to the Elder Band.

Another important aspect of LaRosa’s is that it is a place of employment for hundreds of people all over the Greater Cincinnati area. Many workers at the pizzeria are young high school and college students. For young people, LaRosa’s is a great place to take first steps into the working world.

Andrew Wanger, a cook at the Boudinot LaRosa’s, agreed that LaRosa’s is a great first job for high school students.

“It’s really pretty good. I make enough money to pay for myself and have the things I need, while still being committed to schoolwork. I am also getting good experience. Also, you can make it work with your schedule,” stated Wanger, a junior at Elder.

When asked what sets LaRosa’s apart from other business in the area, Travis Rose said it is “the atmosphere and the people, both employment and the customers. It’s just a different atmosphere and working at Boudinot LaRosa’s my whole life from 16 until present day, it has been the people that have kept me here. The customers and employees alike.”

After serving delicious food and serving for the community for 60 years now, LaRosa’s is still going strong.