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Michael Valerio, whose pizza place on Bennington Street in East Boston grew into a New England chain, dies

Michael Valerio, a Sicilian immigrant who started the Papa Gino's pizza chain, died Wednesday. He was 89.

With help from his brother Gino and other family members, Valerio opened an ice cream and pizza place on Bennington Street at Marion Street in East Boston, originally called Paradise Restaurant, in 1954, using money he had sent home while serving in Korea to his mother - who had saved it for him - according to a 1985 Globe profile.

Valerio switched to just pizza and changed the name to Piece o' Pizza in 1961 and opened several outlets across the Boston area and Brockton. He married Helen, the chain expanded and they changed the name to Papa Gino's in 1969. When Helen and Michael Valerio sold the chain in 1991, they had 220 company-owned Papa Gino's restaurants across New England.

In the 1980s, Valerio, long active in Massachusetts conservative politics, also owned WEEI-AM, when that was Boston's main radio news station and ran a conservative think tank focused on Massachusetts issues in downtown Boston.

Via East Boston News.

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Comments

Plus ca change?

Give the guy credit for growing a business. It wasn't him who couldn't adapt to the national chains showing up and the trend towards delivery.

I know I will get crushed here, but a Papa Gino's large cheese fresh out of the oven is better pizza than a certain other East Boston / Peabody place with only two outlets.

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Tarps? Fuhgetaboutit!

I’ll give you that it’s not bad pizza, but no, it’s not Santarpio’s.

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papa ginos was my favorite growing up in central MA. i tried santarpio's after moving to boston 5-6 years ago and... underwhelming, to say the least.

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True dat. I was raised on Greek 'House of' pizza, but there are times that I crave a slice from Papa's. RIP, Mike!

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yup, for a chain its actually pretty good.

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A lot of Italians were Republicans especially during the 1950’s in Massachusetts . Mainly the multimillionaire business owners who most started out of Eastie and ventured off to the suburbs, Known now as north shore types.

Valerio bought WEEI in 1983 when CBS decided to buy a station in Dallas and under FCC ownership rules had to sell off a station. The Dallas sale fell through but they still elected to sell WEEI as it was not a 50,000 watt station and CBS did not own a TV station in the Boston market at the time.

For WEEI staffers it was a culture shock as union workers were making the same money that CBS paid staffers in New York. Suddenly instead of working for 'The Tiffany Network' they were working for a pizza chain owner.

Valerio sold the station 7 years later to the Celtics who then would shift the station to all sports the following year.

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The old WEEI was on 590 AM and even though it was only 5,000 watts it had the 4th best signal on the city after WBZ (1030), WRKO (680) and WHDH (850)

https://radio-locator.com/cgi-bin/pat?call=WEZE&service=AM

By the fall of 1994 because of mergers and consolidation, WEEI moved to 850 and the old WHDH AM just vanished.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WEZE

In the '70s the old WEEI was the radio station people tuned to in emergencies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbLu2nZL35s

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Fond memories of going to the local mall Papa Gino’s with my father, he used to have a “goblet of beer” there with the pizza.

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if given a choice of Uno's vs the Pagino's, I'm going Uno's every time.

Also, dabbing the oil off the pepperoni was always tiresome.

Thank you for your service. A great American story. Hard work, a great product, and much success. Think about how many jobs were created, and how many of us had the simple pleasure of a very good piece of pizza when we needed it.

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1) B'tucci's
2) Papa Ginos
3) Hot circle of garbage*
4) Uno's

* Kevin from the Office top 10 line.

Late-80s Boynton over any of them, thank you.

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