He was the Johnny Appleseed of New York pizza, a business genius and visionary who helped countless Italian-American restaurateurs open their first pizzerias and survive the Great Depression. He’s even credited with inventing the modern gas-fired pizza oven and the pizza box. He
should be an industry icon. Instead, his name has been all but lost to history.
WHO WAS FRANK MASTRO? AND WHY DON’T WE REMEMBER HIM?
The story of Mastro and his equally innovative son, Vinnie, is a long, compli-
cated one, And it doesn’t end happily, says Vincent Mastro, son of Vinnie and
grandson of Frank. “It’s an extraordinary story of family, creativity, unbeliev-
able insight and foresight—and also sadness,” Vincent says. “These are people
who started a family business, worked hard, and pursued opportunity and the
American dream. The whole family was involved, everyone working hard for
a common goal. Then a series of tragedies struck.”
It’s a story of ambition, originality and altruism, but also of disease, depres-
sion and alleged corporate sabotage. It stretches from the First World War
through the Eisenhower years and the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965. And
it hasn’t been told in a long, long time…until now.
Frank and Vinnie Mastro ought to be pizzeria industry icons,
but few even remember their names. Here’s the strange, sad story
of pizza’s greatest—and most tragic—visionaries.
Written by Rick Hynum | Images courtesy Madeline Ferrentino
Reported by Walter Gloshinski and Rick Hynum