In September 1952, Mario Caponi formed a partnership with a friend from his Italian hometown of Pretare. They ran a small restaurant on Bowery Street on the south side of Akron, Ohio. They named it Mario’s Restaurant and operated it together for thirteen months. Mario sold out his share to his partner along with the restaurant name.
In December of 1953, Mario decided to open a carry out pizza shop. He needed a new name. Since Mario’s had been sold, “Caponi” still had gangster connotation with the public, so ” Rocco’s” was chosen because it was Mario’s father’s name. At the time, Rocco owned Rocco’s Shoe Repair at 479 West Thorton Street in a small storefront attached to his home.
It was decided that the shoe repair business was to be moved to the basement and the pizza shop operated at street level. Rocco continued to operate his shoe repair business for several years until the pizza shop required full time attention. Rocco’s Pizza was the first carry out pizza shop in Akron. Mario and his father continued to operate the pizza shop together.
In 1956, Mario journeyed to his hometown in Italy to marry. He returned with his wife Luisa and started a family. Rocco was born in 1958, Mario in 1959 and Rita in 1963. In 1962, Mario opened another Rocco’s Pizza in Cuyahoga Falls located on Portage Trail and 11th street. In 1963, Mario moved his family to Cuyahoga Falls and plans were made to build a new Rocco’s in Kenmore. The original Thorton Street store was becoming too small in the changing neighborhood. Mario and his father remained partners until 1968 when Rocco retired. Upon Rocco’s retirement, his daughter, Martha, began to operate the Kenmore location with her husband, Jim Bowling. Mario retained the Cuyahoga Falls location and each has since owned and operated independently with the same name.
Mario operated Rocco’s Pizza while raising his family in the business. Luisa did the prep work and his children began working as teenagers. As the popularity of pizza expanded so did the business. In 1977 The Akron Beacon Journal conducted an area wide pizza poll and Rocco’s was voted the “Best Pizza in Cuyahoga Falls” with subsequent polls in 1986 and 1996 Rocco’s remained in the top 10 for the Akron area. In 1986, Rocco’s celebrated their 25th Anniversary in Cuyahoga Falls by selling pizzas at 1962 Prices.
In 1989, Mario expanded with another location at Graham Rd. and Hudson Drive. Mario’s oldest son Rocco runs the landmark Portage Trail location while Mario Jr. oversees the Graham Road store.
1992 saw another expansion at Portage Trail with an addition of a dining room and private party room. After many years of success, Mario retired and turned Rocco’s Pizza over to his sons in 1993. Mario still is involved as a dad and advisor. Rocco and Mario continue to work as their father did by serving their customers and the Cuyahoga Falls community.