"A Pizza History" for Papa Luigi boys
A bit of earlier history
Although the papa Luigi Dial a pizza business is celebrating its 32nd Anniversary the Scibelli brothers Sebastian and Tony along with business partner Stef Malajny who formed the business go back much further, all three were school buddies and their very first business was planned after a game of five a side footie at the Local Youth Club.
The first business venture at the Community centre
It was July 1977 that the young “apprentices” put on their very first money raising project at there local community centre, it was advertised as a Tamla Motown night of Entertainment with local star DJ Roger Black playing popular Motown tunes, it was a moderate success making £32 profit but is gave the lads a hunger to put more of these events on.
Its World Disco Dancing time
The lads continued hiring venues, under the banner of S & M Entertainments; they booked many famous acts of the day including Radio 1 djays Steve Wright and Dave Lee Travis and they played hosts to the Regional finals of the televised World Disco Dancing Competition.
Kissograms, the first of many firsts
Having captured the local disco market the young Entrepreneurs then set up an Entertainment Agency and they lay claim to also running the first Kissogram agency in the UK, partner Tony Scibelli picks up the story , “One day we had a request for a Kissogram, we had heard of them in America but they hadn’t made their mark here, that didn’t deter me I just said no problem and then we had to find a pretty young lady who didn’t mind wearing next to nothing, it was hard work but it had to be done.” Kissograms were a far cry from pizzas but the young lads found it a real grounding for what was to come in the promotional fun side of the business.
It’s Goodbye to the Entertainment
The Entertainment set up ran for several more years before finally selling when the pizza business took off leaving great memories for the partners and quite a few married couples who met at their events.
Moving in to the Restaurant trade
It was back in 1983 that Sebastian Scibelli left Perkins engines having worked there several years as an engineer, he had an opportunity to purchase a restaurant that was being run at the time by his brother in law, who although was Italian he ran the restaurant as a Greek Restaurant “The Kebab House” (first Kebabs in the region).
Papa Luigi Trains the boys
After a few months of trading, Tony and Stef Joined Seb in the Restaurant and it was decided that it would be better to use their own National dishes in the cuisine and the new Restaurant was named after Luigi Scibelli, he is famous for his log fired pizzas in the Southern area of Italy with his special homemade family tomato recipe, he was a living legend at the Parrocino in Sorrento and that is where the lads went for there chefs training. This was backed up by Tony and Seb`s mum, Rosa Scibelli who made some of the most delicious pasta in the Italian community.
Papa Luigi Restaurant is born
The Papa Luigi Restaurant was opened, log oven was built and the trade instantly doubled however the young businessmen realised that the early part of the week was much quieter than the weekend so the idea of delivering was brought in with the belief that if customers weren’t coming out earlier part of the week then they would go to them.
Papa Luigi Dial a Pizza follows
It was 1983 and Papa Luigi Dial A Pizza was launched brainchild of Antonio Scibelli, unbeknown to the business men they had created the first pizza delivery service in the UK, a small phone booth was built in the kitchens and the aim was to get the pizza delivered in 30 minutes. A second-hand mini was purchased as the delivery vehicle and it was fitted out with a home made heated oven to ensure the food was still hot on arrival, all was going great until the day before the first delivery when the new bespoke delivery vehicle was stolen from outside the restaurant, bearing in mind this was parked opposite the police station everyone was most upset.
The local paper comes to the rescue
Raring to go but with the heated delivery vehicle being stolen the business was put on temporary hold, the local paper was contacted to see if they could help and a story was put out asking for members of the public to look out for the van, that same day Papa Luigi received a call to say the van had been found, by an unemployed youngster called Mark Shinn who was offered a job as delivery driver, Mark was delighted to get a job as a reward, the paper did a follow up story and this was noticed by the local TV news channel and they did a five minute feature on the story and Dial a pizza was back in business.
Viva La rock Wow
It was decided that the restaurant could be combined with the pretty Kissogram girls serving the customers and the Restaurant was changed to Viva La rock, although it was a great hit with the fellas unfortunately the females were not quite so keen, however the Bar and disco upstairs proved a very popular with the young students and regularly star Djs like Andy Bellwood would pop in and entertain the crowds.
The Delivery business then grows
Over the next few years the business grows into a small franchise with shops in Peterborough, Lincoln, Huntingdon, Northampton, rugby, leicester and Milton Keynes, always sticking to the quality ingredients that Luigi had recommended.
Buy one get one free, another first
Back in the late Eighties there was a housing crash very similar to the present day credit crunch, it was realised that if the high quality could be matched with some great offers than the business would continue to flourish and the customers would be even happier, financial guru Stef Malajny did some calculations and worked out that if they gave the additional pizza away they would be busier and make up for the cost of the extra ingredients, it was a calculated risk but was put on trial with the Thomas Cook workforce one evening, with the trade nearly tripling and the crew blowing fusses it was agreed that this would be a great promotion. Buy one get One Free has since been copied by all the Supermarkets, so every time you get a bargain then we have Stef to thank.
World Pizza eating Champs
The guys thought what would be a great way to raise money for charity and have some fun at the same time, the World Pizza Eating Competitions were born,, World record holder for the 12” cheese and tomato at the moment is, big Andy Munden from the Peterborough Scooter Club with a very sharp time of 3 minutes 42 seconds, Andy then went on to eat 2 more pizzas in the endurance test, that’s what we call a healthy appetite.
Papa Luigi have won several awards at The National Pizza and Pasta award days, Tony Scibelli picked up Pizza Personality of the year award in 1988. Big Stu Morley is the Worlds highest pizza throwing Champ, at six foot seven inches tall he did have a slight advantage over the shorter Italian chefs. Stu was assisted by Franco and Anna Baylis making the 24inch Award winning Quatro Stagioni, and Stef Malajny has always carried on the tradition he started of Pizza Demos for young and old alike, once again recognized by Pizza and Pasta and not forgetting receptionist Niki Griffiths who won the Receptionist of the year in the Anglian area, a true award winning team.
Franco and Abby
A few of the Papa Luigi crew are celebrating the full 32 years with Papa Luigi Franco Baylis who joined as a young driver and Abbi Bahnam who was a student and part time kitchen assistant are not only still with the team they have recently joined forces and have franchised the two Peterborough shops, Franco also married his sweetheart Anna Scibelli, Tony and Seb`s sister who he met whilst working at the Lincoln road shop, he said she was always beautiful and with her Italian cooking she’s irresistible, Anna’s son Pep, who is a local columnist and all round Man about Town, also helps with the promotions of Papa Luigi.
Hitting the headlines
Papa Luigi are regularly in the headlines with there charity fund raising and fun events and in 2002 there was real controversy when to Celebrate the Queens Golden Jubilee Stef decided to make a pizza depicting the queens head, the story was front page news in the papers and then the TV crews once again picked up the controversial story. Although Stef being a true Royalist thought it would be a great idea, apparently some members of the public thought it was a step too far, in particular an ex local councilor was most distraught at the sight of the very large poster with the Queen munching on her pizza and the Corgis looking for tit bits. Stef commented, “It was all done as a bit of fun depicting a modern twist to the Royal family and the Liz’s Great Big Golden pizza has always proved to be very popular.”
Ground force TV star fall in love with the Pizzas
The very popular garden make over show featuring Alan Titmarsh and the much talked about Charlie Dimmock came to Bretton Peterborough in 2001 to wave their magic wand over a local hardworking nurse’s garden. It wasn’t all magic in fact it was a lot of hard graft and the guys including Tommy Walsh worked up a big appetite, they fancied pizza and saw and was recommended Papa Luigis, they enjoyed the pizzas so much they then ordered the pizzas two more times and invited the press down to photograph them munching on the pizzas as a thank you gesture, the pizza deliveries were also featured on TV with Tommy getting stuck into a Papa Luigi Special.
The Willow Festival
In 2011, Tony successfully negotiated the return of The Willow Festival with Peterborough city council, the 2012 & 2013 festivals attracted well over 50,000 supporters over each event.
Papa Luigi co-organised & sponsored the festival and very proud of bringing TWF back to Peterborough.
32 years Flew by, thank you.
32 years for Papa Luigi, partner Stef Malajny commented, “Well those years just flew by we hope that 2015 onwards we shall be as grounded and rooted as ever and always look to cater for our customers and would just like to say a really big thank you to all our customers for supporting us and also all the charity events that we put on it is most appreciated.”
We hope you enjoyed the history of Papa Luigi and we will update all new events onto our Blog.