Chicago deep dish, Quad City, St. Louis—these are all famous Midwestern pizza styles. But what do you know about Dayton-style pizza?
Marion’s Piazza, founded in Dayton, has been a local institution for fifty-five years. Marion Glass opened the first one in 1965. And yes, that’s “piazza,” which means “square” in Italian. It’s a double entendre: Marion’s serves square-cut pizza, and Marion Glass modeled the interior of his first location after an outdoor Italian square, with old brick, awnings, and rustic decor.
Today, Marion’s has nine locations, including one in “Warm and Cheerful” Centerville, my hometown. The Centerville restaurant is on Main Street, near downtown. (Bill’s Donuts, which national publications consistently rate as one of the best donut shops in the U.S., operates across the street, and Boston Stoker Coffee, established in 1973, sells fancy pour-over coffees, even from its drive-thru. So, in one swoop, you can get your pizza with a side of donuts and cold brew.)
And yes, that’s “piazza,” which means “square” in Italian. It’s a double entendre: Marion’s serves square-cut pizza, and Marion Glass modeled the interior of his first location after an outdoor Italian square, with old brick, awnings, and rustic decor.
Marion’s son, Roger Glass, who took over as CEO when his father died in 2006, started calling the pizza “Dayton-style.” You can find similar pies elsewhere in town. Marion Glass ran a franchise of Cassano’s Pizza, the first shop in Dayton to offer square-cut pizza, before he opened Marion’s. Cassano’s franchisee Ron Holp also ventured out on his own, founding Ron’s Pizza while still operating a Cassano’s. His crust was so similar to Cassano’s that Vic Cassano thought Ron had stolen the recipe. He sued. Ron won.
Whenever I visit my Centerville-based family, we order pizzas from Marion’s. (Although Marion’s also offers subs and pasta, we never get those.) As the sole vegetarian in the family, I always get a nine-inch veggie pizza: mushrooms, green olives, black olives, onions, and green peppers piled high on a cracker-thin crust. It’s small enough that, when I eat the whole thing by myself, I don’t feel guilty. The rest of my family usually goes for the deluxe, heaped with crumbly sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.
I don’t know why it tastes so good. The tomato sauce and most of the veggies come from a can, and the cheese comes out of a bag—not many fresh ingredients there. Maybe it’s the umami flavors of the sauce mingling with the briny olives. Or maybe it’s because Marion’s hasn’t changed its recipes in decades. It’s dependable, traditional, nostalgic pizza. Almost any expat Daytonian will tell you that Marion’s is a priority when visiting friends and family. (Marion’s used to ship frozen pizzas to its most devout followers.) Even Daytonian Rob Lowe makes a stop when he’s in town to visit his father, Chuck Lowe. (I’m not advocating for people to do whatever Rob Lowe does, but I interviewed him once, and he was an absolute delight.)
During the pandemic, Marion’s has become even more reliable. They offer curbside pickup, and for the first time ever, delivery, through DoorDash. Before Marion’s recently reopened its dining rooms, it installed bipolar ionization units on its HVAC systems, which supposedly reduce virus spread. So even when customers dine in, they can feel confident that the Glass family continues to take care of them.