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Michael Valerio, whose pizza place on Bennington Street in East Boston grew into a New England chain, dies

Michael Valerio, a Sicilian immigrant who started the Papa Gino's pizza chain, died Wednesday. He was 89.

With help from his brother Gino and other family members, Valerio opened an ice cream and pizza place on Bennington Street at Marion Street in East Boston, originally called Paradise Restaurant, in 1954, using money he had sent home while serving in Korea to his mother - who had saved it for him - according to a 1985 Globe profile.

Valerio switched to just pizza and changed the name to Piece o' Pizza in 1961 and opened several outlets across the Boston area and Brockton. He married Helen, the chain expanded and they changed the name to Papa Gino's in 1969. When Helen and Michael Valerio sold the chain in 1991, they had 220 company-owned Papa Gino's restaurants across New England.

In the 1980s, Valerio, long active in Massachusetts conservative politics, also owned WEEI-AM, when that was Boston's main radio news station and ran a conservative think tank focused on Massachusetts issues in downtown Boston.

Via East Boston News.

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Plus ca change?

Give the guy credit for growing a business. It wasn't him who couldn't adapt to the national chains showing up and the trend towards delivery.

I know I will get crushed here, but a Papa Gino's large cheese fresh out of the oven is better pizza than a certain other East Boston / Peabody place with only two outlets.

Voting closed 9

Tarps? Fuhgetaboutit!

Voting closed 2

I’ll give you that it’s not bad pizza, but no, it’s not Santarpio’s.

Voting closed 14

papa ginos was my favorite growing up in central MA. i tried santarpio's after moving to boston 5-6 years ago and... underwhelming, to say the least.

Voting closed 38

True dat. I was raised on Greek 'House of' pizza, but there are times that I crave a slice from Papa's. RIP, Mike!

Voting closed 19

yup, for a chain its actually pretty good.

Voting closed 2

A lot of Italians were Republicans especially during the 1950’s in Massachusetts . Mainly the multimillionaire business owners who most started out of Eastie and ventured off to the suburbs, Known now as north shore types.

Voting closed 4

That is not the true founder of Papa Gino’s. His brother founded the recipes, open 160 location on his own, and had it stolen by his brother.

Voting closed 0

Valerio bought WEEI in 1983 when CBS decided to buy a station in Dallas and under FCC ownership rules had to sell off a station. The Dallas sale fell through but they still elected to sell WEEI as it was not a 50,000 watt station and CBS did not own a TV station in the Boston market at the time.

For WEEI staffers it was a culture shock as union workers were making the same money that CBS paid staffers in New York. Suddenly instead of working for 'The Tiffany Network' they were working for a pizza chain owner.

Valerio sold the station 7 years later to the Celtics who then would shift the station to all sports the following year.

Voting closed 4

The old WEEI was on 590 AM and even though it was only 5,000 watts it had the 4th best signal on the city after WBZ (1030), WRKO (680) and WHDH (850)


By the fall of 1994 because of mergers and consolidation, WEEI moved to 850 and the old WHDH AM just vanished.


In the '70s the old WEEI was the radio station people tuned to in emergencies.


Voting closed 5

Fond memories of going to the local mall Papa Gino’s with my father, he used to have a “goblet of beer” there with the pizza.

Voting closed 3

if given a choice of Uno's vs the Pagino's, I'm going Uno's every time.

Also, dabbing the oil off the pepperoni was always tiresome.

Voting closed 2

Thank you for your service. A great American story. Hard work, a great product, and much success. Think about how many jobs were created, and how many of us had the simple pleasure of a very good piece of pizza when we needed it.

Voting closed 6

1) B'tucci's
2) Papa Ginos
3) Hot circle of garbage*
4) Uno's

* Kevin from the Office top 10 line.

Voting closed 4

Late-80s Boynton over any of them, thank you.

Voting closed 8