A Family Recipe Worth Sharing
If you have ever visited LBI, you are no stranger to Panzone’s Pizza. Whether you go north or south on the island, the iconic restaurants have been serving families, beach goers and locals since 1980. Behind the counters, you will almost always find a member of the Panzone family, continuing the dream of founder Frank Panzone Jr.
Raised in South Jersey, Frank got his start in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher at age 14, quickly realizing restaurant ownership would be his chosen path. During that time, Frank took many day trips to Long Beach Island and saw there was a need to bring great pizza, cheese steaks and hoagies to the shore community. On May 13, 1980 Frank and his wife Joyce opened Panzone’s Pizza in Beach Haven. They converted a small building on the corner of 11th St and the Boulevard from an ice cream store to a pizza shop. Giving the building a coat of bright yellow paint and green trim, they added an outdoor patio and placed picnic tables under their yellow awning. Patrons became accustomed to ordering their food through the friendly takeout window, and made Panzone’s a popular spot for pizzas and huge sandwiches. Customers came at all hours, with the demand for late night food keeping the restaurant open until 3am every night.
Hard work and growing success allowed Panzone’s to expand to the north end of the Island. Just four years after opening their first location, the ribbon was cut at Panzone’s Pizza at 22nd St and Long Beach Blvd. By 1987, Frank Panzone Jr was ready to launch a full service restaurant next to the existing Beach Haven location. The already famous menu grew to add his favorite pasta dishes. The new restaurant, Panzone’s Pizza & Pasta opened for Memorial Day weekend that year. The original location remained and became known as the Slice Shop still serving pizza from the takeout window. In 1998 the Slice Shop was torn down to make way for an expansion to the dining area of Panzone’s Pizza & Pasta. Along the way Frank and his family won numerous awards including NJ Magazine Best of the shore Lobster Roll & Best Pizza, Philly Magazine “best pizza at the shore” 2016, Chowderfest, grand champions in 2007 as well as placing in top 3 numerous years for 23 years straight competing with their red and white chowders.
While they were building their business Frank & Joyce’s family grew as well. Both daughters, Kristin and Jillian have memories of growing up alongside their parents at the restaurant. Kristin graduated University of Delaware with a Fashion Degree and went on to work in NYC. Kristin commuted to NYC for seven years from LBI everyday while still managing to find time to work in the restaurant on weekends in the summer and designing the restaurant merchandise and marketing materials. Jillian graduated Widener University with a degree in Hospitality Management, working in corporate foodservice industry for three years. Jillian married Todd who graduated from Ramapo College with a business degree; who also worked in the restaurant with her family during the busy summer seasons throughout college. In 2012, after Frank passed away from cancer and with the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, Kristin, Jillian and Todd left their corporate jobs to join Joyce to continue on the legacy that Frank & Joyce Panzone started on Long Beach Island in 1980. The family also picked up Frank’s passion for Chowderfest, with his son in law Todd Elsasser being appointed Chowderfest Coordinator in 2016 and now heading up the event.
To mention Panzone’s, is to mention tradition. One important legacy is Chowderfest, Frank Panzone Jr. served as the chair of this world renowned event from its inception in 1988 to his passing. Under his supervision, it grew to be the largest event held on Long Beach Island, and rivals any food competition on the East Coast. Frank Panzone Jr, also served with distinction as President of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce and as a long standing board of director. This baton has been handed down to his daughter Jillian Panzone Elsasser, who is the current President. The family honors Frank and his battle with cancer by serving on the board of David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation which holds the Frank V Panzone Jr. Cruisin’ for a Cure Motorcycle Run each May. Generations of families have been coming together around Panzone’s delicious meals, pizza and sandwiches. Frank Panzone Jr. followed his dream to Long Beach Island and built a business that his family continues today, making him forever the king of pizza on LBI!
The interview and article credited to Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with their Founded in Family programming.