Larry, 51, moved to Winnipeg from the Philippines in 1977. In high school, Larry worked at Gondola Pizza and then in 1986, he opened the Main Street location, followed shortly by the Portage Avenue location,
albeit not under the Pizzaland banner.
“We started in ’86 as Tony’s Pizza for four years,” Larry said. “Tony’s had about 12 locations all over Manitoba. The head office was having trouble and they were losing some of their stores. It was in a downspin, so I decided to start my own place.”
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Larry brought his brother Ernie into the business to run the Portage pizza place.
Since then, Pizzaland has become a full-fledged family institution, with Ernie’s son Chris taking over the Portage
location and a plethora of family members and friends working as drivers, cooks and supervisors over the years.
“I’ve been working here since I was 13. I’m 28 now,” said Joshua Pagdato, a cook at the Main Street location and Larry’s nephew.
“This place has been here my whole life. My grandma actually used to stay upstairs. And everybody calls this guy ‘Uncle Larry.’
“I have to change the name from Pizzaland to Uncle Larry’s Pizzaland,” said Larry with a laugh.
Larry said Pizzaland’s family vibe, as well as such popular pies as Susie’s Special and Smoky BBQ Chicken, has resulted in a very devoted clientele.
In addition to the north and west sides of the city, Larry said Pizzaland has a faithful fan base in such areas as Transcona and St. Vital, with his pizzas even travelling beyond the Perimeter.
“We have out-of- towners, Selkirk, Tyndall, even as far as Riverton. Some of them they work in the city so on the way home they pick up,” said Larry, who lives in Linden Woods.
“People move out of town, they go to another province and first thing they do when they come back is call us and order a pizza.”
In addition to calls for pizza, Larry said he receives plenty of calls for positions.
“I have staff that used to work here in the beginning, now they send their kids here. ‘Hey Larry, my kid needs a job.’ I say ‘OK, they start tomorrow.’”
Larry said Pizzaland has 18 staff and pumps out about 1,200 pizzas a week. He said the pizza business can be demanding, but he’s rarely crusty.
“Sometimes you get tired, but when I get a customer calling back saying ‘Larry, that was the best pizza I ever had,’ it makes me want to do more,” he said.
To see the Pizzaland menu, visit www.pizzaland.ca or call 204-336-3333 (Main) or 204-885-9453 (Portage).
Also, like Pizzaland on Facebook for a chance to win Grey Cup tickets, as well as 25th anniversary Pizzaland gear.