BY JACLYN ROSE –
When Robert Wolfe was five years old, his family moved from Sicily to Chicago. It was there that Wolfe was raised amongst the most iconic pizza makers in the United States. He quickly learned the skills and values that lead him to this day, biggest of which is that quality always counts.
After moving to Arkansas, Wolfe worked in Arkadelphia where he met local citizen, Buddy Bean. “Buddy told me about Mena and that there were no pizza places like mine here so in 1980 we moved and opened our first Il Primo Chicago Pizza across from the movie theater,” explained Wolfe. The Wolfe’s have a son with cerebral palsy and have been in and out of town working with specialists, but as often as they can, have continued to make pizza for local residents.
Il Primo Chicago Pizza recently moved to their newest and nicest location on Main Street and Highway 71 South within the State Farm Building. There they continue to make their pizzas along with a large menu, which includes items such as lasagna, spaghetti, fettuccini, a variety of sandwiches, cheese bruschetta, as well as, taco salad, meat nachos and burritos.
Every ingredient that Wolfe uses must meet his very high standards. “I use nothing artificial, everything is packed in the United States and I don’t buy my food from a grocery store. I lived through the Depression and I believe we ate better food during that time than we do now. We use 3% whole milk cheese, it is real and not made from oil or skim milk. We use beef and Italian sausage with no fillers and we don’t buy anything from foreign countries. I have been making pizza for 53 years and I am a good pizza maker because I use quality products and never compromise. Each pizza starts from the very beginning in an 80 quart bowl,” explained Wolfe. Though Wolfe lost one leg in an injury that stems back to the Korean War, he moves around his kitchen on a converted shower chair and is dedicated to making the best pizza possible. In fact, Wolfe was given the title of Best Pizza in Arkansas in Pizza Today Magazine eight times and his son, Richard, was named the Best Pizza in the United States in 1993 for his pizzeria in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Il Primo Chicago Pizza is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and is closed on Sunday and Monday.
“It is very difficult to only serve products that have nothing artificial in them so it is common to cut the quality and lower the price, but we do not do that. If it is not quality, we do not want it. I say, ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating,’” said Wolfe.