fresh in-house and piled high. All of the ingredients are
placed underneath a blanket of fresh mozzarella cheese.
It’s a very top-heavy pie. After the pizza comes out of the
stone deck oven, it’s scissor-cut into strips instead of slices.
PMQ: HOW DID THIS STYLE COME ABOUT?
Mannen: I grew up in the Quad Cities with one of my
best friends, Tony Maniscalco Jr. He was the son of Tony
Maniscalco Sr., who came to the United States from Italy
with his brother, Frank. They brought this style of pizza
to the Quad Cities in the early 1950s. It was definitely
their unique style, a longtime family recipe from Italy.
Tony Sr. served the first Quad Cities-style pizza at the
Paddock Club in Rock Island, Illinois, and Frank later
opened Tony’s Pizza in Davenport, Iowa. Most people had
no idea what pizza was at that time, unless they’d served
overseas in World War II and visited Italy.
PMQ: HOW DID YOU COME TO SERVE QUAD
CITIES-STYLE PIZZA AT FAT JACK’S?
Mannen: Starting when I was 9 years old, Tony Jr. and I
worked in the Maniscalcos’ restaurants on weekends and
during summer vacations. We made $1 an hour and got
to take a pizza home at the end of the evening. That was
my baptism in the pizza business! After growing up in
the business, I never really left. I worked as a manager of
premiere hotels in Peoria for 20 years, then as a district
manager for a local pizzeria chain. A man named Dick
Kennedy had also worked for the Maniscalcos at the Pad-
dock Club and later opened the Pizza Joint, in Milan,
Illinois. After trying his pizza in 1995, I was hooked! My
wife, Jean, and I wanted to bring to Peoria this very special
pizza, one that we grew up with and loved. After a great
deal of negotiation, I obtained the original recipes, and
we opened Fat Jack’s in 2014, where we serve a true slice
of pizza history and the best pizza in Peoria!
PMQ: HAS THE STYLE SPREAD TO OTHER AREAS?
Mannen: Outside this area, most people don’t know what
it is. It’s a new phenomenon to them. But as you get closer
to the Quad Cities—in places like Dubuque, Iowa—more
people are aware of it. Right now I can safely say at least a
dozen and a half pizzerias have taken this recipe and made
it successful for their businesses. We’re even seeing people
in Chicago going back to their roots and making Quad
Cities-style pizza. But we’re the real McCoy, because my
family was involved with the people who created it.
PMQ: DO YOU SERVE ANY PIZZAS IN A DIFFERENT
Mannen: We offer a Canadian Bacon and Sauerkraut
Pizza, where we put the kraut on top instead of cheese,
which browns and releases sugars. We also offer a potato
pizza—we use our homemade sausage and cheese mixed
with crumbled tater tots, creating a unique flavor when
the potatoes brown and crisp. People might initially come
in here and wrinkle their noses when they see sauerkraut
on our menu, but once you try it, you will be back!
Rick Hynum is PMQ’s editor-in-chief.
The Quad Cities style of pizza is known for its malty crust, spicy sauce
and blanket of fresh mozz layered over the toppings. Mark Mannen says
it was invented by the Maniscalco brothers, while other sources credit
Leonard and Mary Harris, founders of Harris Pizza in Rock Island, Illinois.
The BBQ Pulled Pork is a popular Quad Cities-style menu item at Fat
Jack’s in Peoria, Illinois.
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