4 generations of the family, started by Mary Grittani and Nick Perrino, who also started Home Run Inn. The little ones are generation 5!/Photo: Julie Arends

“I started with my dad in 1969,” says Joe Perrino, CEO of Home Run Inn, during the grand opening celebration of the newest location of this family-owned pizza empire in Berwyn. Surrounded by his family, Perinno explained, “my dad always thought we’d draw people to our restaurant from five, eight, ten miles away. He never wanted to open in Berwyn because he figured people would come to us at our 31st St. location. But as the business grew and populations grew, we knew we were losing people from this area. We also knew we had high name recognition in this area. So when the opportunity came up, we knew Berwyn would be good for us.”

Home Run Inn has been around since 1947. One of only three pizza parlors in Chicago at the time, Home Run Inn started in a South Lawndale tavern. The story goes that the place was given its name when a baseball from nearby Piotrowski Park came crashing through the barroom window.

Perhaps because it was born on the south side of Chicago and not on the glitzier north, it has not seemed to receive the kind of attention afforded legendary places like Uno’s, Due’s and perhaps even Lou Malnati’s. Still, there are a lot of legends about the founders of this Home Run Inn and their pizza:

  • Original owner/ patriarch Nick Perrino once received a congratulatory slap on the back from near-mythical George S. Patton, who was pleased with Mess Sergeant Perrino’s maverick decision to serve cold rather than hot cocoa (as prescribed in the Army menu book) to military stationed in Florida. I confirmed this legendary tale with his son, Joe.
  • Ray Kroc, Oak Parker and founder of McDonald’s, is said to have put in a bid for the Home Run Pizza recipe sometime in the 60s. Kroc offered $5 million Perrino, which was a very serious money at that time. I could not confirm this story, but you have to admit, it’s a good story.
  • Nick Perrino is a recognized leader in the frozen pizza industry. In the 1950s, he discovered that customers were asking for pizzas that weren’t baked all the way through: these fans of Home Run pizza planned to take the pizzas home, freeze them and bake them later. Perrino hit upon the brilliant idea that he could do the freezing for them. Home Run now distributes frozen pizza to 40 states, and it’s likely that this is how most of us were introduced to the brand. Frozen Home Run pizzas were sold at the now shuttered Oak Park Dominick’s and they’re still sold in Jewel food stores.

So now we have a Home Run Pizza location in Berwyn, the company’s ninth location.

Clearly, this is a smart and growing business. How about the pizza?

Home Run pizza toppings – cheese, sausage, pepperoni, vegetables –are very good. The cheese has good tang and the sausage is clean tasting, with none of the off-tastes or funk you sometimes detect with inexpensive meat.

The crust – grid-cut in the traditional Chicago tavern style – seemed, to me at least, more soft and bready than crisp. I prefer cracker-crisp, not only because I like crispiness but because a crisper, firmer crust seems to do a better job of supporting ingredients as the slice is moved from serving pan to mouth. Still, there are a lot of pizza styles in Chicago and surrounding suburbs, and Home Run Inn makes its own distinctive style. More importantly, there’s no arguing with success: people across the city have shown they really like this pizza, and Home Run Inn really likes Berwyn.

“What we’ve been most impressed with in Berwyn,” said Perrino, “is the quality of the workforce. That’s sometimes overlooked, and we’ve been challenged in some locations to find quality workers. Here, they’re willing to work, they’re anxious to work, and this restaurant is starting out with one of the best crews we’ve ever had.”

Home Run Inn

6825 W. Cermak

Berwyn

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...

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