A brief look at Home Run Inn's storied past offers a glimpse into how the restaurant evolved into a Chicago-area icon.
The restaurants' beginning dates back to 1920, when Mary and Vincent Grittani opened a small tavern with 10 seats on the South Side of Chicago. When a baseball from a neighborhood game broke one of the front windows, the restaurant's new name became Home Run Inn.
Years later, in 1942, Mary and Vincent's daughter Loretta married her neighborhood sweetheart, an Italian immigrant named Nick Perrino. After serving as a mess sergeant in World War II, Perrino returned home in 1945. Later that year, Vincent Grittani died. Mary looked for ways to pass the time following the death of her husband, and at the same time Perrino looked for a new way to support his family. Mary and Perrino made their first pizza together in Home Run Inn's kitchen.
Many pizzas later, the duo perfected the recipe and began sampling the pizza at Home Run Inn. Customers loved the pizza, which was cut into small squares and served with every drink. Mary and Perrino begin selling whole pizzas in 1947, and the corner tavern became the first full-scale Home Run Inn pizzeria.
In the 1950s Perrino began freezing the handmade pizzas and selling them at Home Run Inn to neighborhood grocers whose customers appreciated the ease of buying frozen pizzas when they couldn't come to the South Side pizzeria.
In 1970, Mary Grittani died. A year later, Home Run Inn expanded to seat more than 300 customers, and the restaurant earned the distinction of being a landmark destination for Chicago pizza. In 1981, the restaurant expanded again to accommodate 500 seats and a party room.
Home Run Inn opened its second pizzeria in Darien, Ill., in 1987.
To support its frozen-pizza business, Home Run Inn opened a USDA-approved plant in 1988, producing 10,000 frozen pizzas a day for grocery stores and chains in the Chicago area. Two years later, Home Run Inn began selling pizzas nationwide and in 1991 entered the annual Taste of Chicago, winning the distinction as the best-selling pizza for six consecutive years.
In 1993, Home Run Inn opened its third pizzeria; this one in Arlington Heights, Ill. In 1995, the first Home Run Inn Pizza Express (offering pizza and appetizers) opened in the Jewel Food Store in Melrose Park.
In 1996, the second USDA plant, occupying 44,000 sq. ft., opened in Woodridge, Ill. In 1997, a second Home Run Inn Pizza Express opened in the Jewel Food Store in Westmont, Ill., and in 1998 the fourth pizzeria opened, this one in Bellwood, Ill.
In 2002, Home Run Inn pizzeria in Arlington Heights closed and moved to Addison, Ill. Home Run Inn partnered with Jay Williams to start the distribution company Power Play Distributors. A year later, a deep-dish pizza with the Perrino name ("Nick's," after the founder's son) was added to the line of frozen pizzas.
In 2004, Home Run Inn built a full commercial center, including a Home Run Inn pizzeria, a sports rehab center, a gym, a congressman's office, an alderman's office and a bank, on Chicago's Archer Avenue.
In 2005, Loretta Perrino died at age 87. Later that year, Nielsen Co. data reported that Home Run Inn was the number-one-selling frozen pizza in the Chicagoland market.
In 2006, the Woodridge plant expanded to 64,000 sq. ft. In 2007, Home Run Inn built its second strip center, this one in Bolingbrook, with a pizzeria, a sports rehab center and several retail sites. A year later, to celebrate Halloween, the first Home Run Inn Video Challenge invited fans to create two-minute horror videos featuring Home Run Inn pizza. That same year, two new frozen pizza lines were introduced: signature pizzas with gourmet toppings and ultra-thin pizzas with crisp, crunchy crusts.
In 2009, Home Run Inn partnered with Stanger Vineyards to create a line of wines sold exclusively at Jewel-Osco stores. Meanwhile, Home Run Inn brought its restaurant-style pasta dinners to grocery stores.
In 2010, Bellwood Pizzeria moved to Hillside, and Melrose Pizza Express moved to Melrose Park.