Any way you slice it

Flying Pizza still aloft downtown

By Jim Bucher

Back in the day, and before getting a driver’s license, my main mode of transportation was a Huffy Stingray bicycle (complete with banana seat, of course).

And living near the city center, it was always an adventure to ride bikes downtown, looking for hidden treasures. But one two-wheeler trip, my neighborhood boys and I stumbled across a small pizza joint on North Main Street. The Flyin’ Pizza.

Hmm, I thought, they’re missing a “G.”

So, in we went, and it’s been a love affair ever since. Now, you’re talking about kids who grew up in this town with bite-size pizza. What’s this stuff-by-the-slice deal? New York style.

We were hooked and at 30 cents a slice, how could one pass that up?

(Full disclosure: My daughter Sophie works there along with my colleague here at DCP Wanda’s daughter, Chassidy.)

John Graci and his wife Frances left Sicily for the U.S., settling at first in New York City. He honed his “spinning” skills at Sam’s Pizza in the Big Apple.

While the two visited John’s brother in Middletown, they stopped in Dayton along the way, falling in love with the city. A great place to raise their two boys, they said.

The rest, as they say, is “hist-dough-ry.” In 1971 the Gracis opened The Flyin’ Pizza downtown. The pizza pie business continued to grow in the ’80s and ’90s with John’s brother and brothers-in-law opening stores in Columbus, Mason, Fairborn, and Centerville, but the one and only original is still on North Main between First and Monument.

Soon after, John put his sons to work in the family business.

“Started here when I was 8 years old during the blizzard of 1977,” Tony Graci says. “Yes, Dad gave us no options—you’re working, no sleeping in, no cartoons, you’re working.”

But did Dad think he’d be in business this long, now 46 years?

“Probably, the Italian in him [did], yes,” Tony says. “He’d probably work until he’s 100, but we’re carrying it on now. His legacy continues. I’ll be 90 when I retire.”

Younger brother Frank was also 8 when he began flyin’ pizzas in 1979. He says it’s just he and his bro now.

“Dad is done, he’s retired, but for you, Buch, he may spin a pizza for old times,” Frank says. “He aggravates my mother now. Seen a lot of changes downtown. Dayton is awesome—I love Dayton. So [do] my dad and brother. Hope we stay here another 46 years.”

For those who remember, The Flyin’ Pizza has been basically in the same spot since the beginning, except for a lengthy period, which seemed like years, when it was uprooted around the corner while new storefronts and a parking garage were built.

Was it time to move out of the city, head to the ’burbs, and give up? Did they fit the new plan?

“We said to the city, If you don’t want us down here, we’ll leave. And they said, Absolutely not, we want you back on Main Street. And we’re happy to be here,” Frank says.

And we are, too. When asked what’s the best part of a locally owned, family business, on this busy lunchtime day, both Graci boys answer quickly.

“To tell you the truth, the best part of the work is dealing with our customers and continuing that for my dad, who opened the door,” Tony says. “Having that conversation every day is the best part of it.”

Frank adds, “I love people, people are awesome. Every day it’s something new, never know what’s coming through the door. Like you, Buch, who hasn’t been here since your Channel 2 morning news live shot in 2007. You should be ashamed.”

Um, moving on… So, other than the price going up a bit on a slice since ’71, nothing much has changed. Or has it?

“The quality’s better, better than my father’s. Wait, will he read this? Quote me on that: my pizza is better than my father’s. Yep, I’m in trouble on that one,” Frank says with a laugh.

So, what makes a slice or a Sicilian square of Flyin’ so flippin’ good?

“It’s the hard work we put into it that chains normally don’t do,” Tony says. “Everything is fresh, every single day. We’re here every day, hour by hour, six days a week. Frank and I are hands-on. Our name and dad’s reputation is in every slice.”

“By the way, I’ll be making pizza until I can’t and will continue flirting with women, too,” says Frank, the bachelor of the brothers. “I’m still taking applications.”

And with that, cheers and grazie, Gracis. Ciao!

Buch

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Jim Bucher
For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

One Response to “On the Beat: 6/27” Subscribe

  1. Steve temple June 28, 2017 at 4:24 am #

    I will have to drive down and try some of the pizza.

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