DES MOINES, Iowa — Thank God YouTube videos exist, without it, the stories of Bamie’s Pizza would be impossible to believe.
Owner Frank “Bamie” Bonanno was part restaurateur, part provocateur.
“They used to call him the fourth Marx Brother!” says son Ron Bonanno.
“He’d throw you a rag and tell you to clean your own table!” says Des Moines native, Linda Kaili.
“He’d be bringing your pizza out and say ‘that looks good!’” says daughter-in-law and former customer, Ann Bonanno. “And he’d take a bite out of your pizza that you just ordered!”
The antics weren’t for everyone, but the pizza was.
“We would have it every Friday night, religiously,” says Lisa Bount, who’d come all the way down from Minnesota for dinner.
“As far as I was concerned the best pizza in town,” says Rex Winchell of Des Moines.
Bamie’s Pizza closed in the 80s but has sprung back to life this month.
Ron Bonanno had waited for years to bring back his dad’s recipe and felt the time was finally right.
“When you remake anything you have to get it exactly the way it was,” says Ron, “especially when you’re dealing with food.”
The challenge was perfect for the likes of Tony Lemmo and George Formaro — star chefs and Bamie fans with old-school pedigrees.
Formaro helped resurrect the recipe, and Lemmo pushed aside his Gusto Pizza to give it a temporary home.
“I had to remove my entire kitchen, dry storage, my cooler to make it a Bamie’s restaurant,” says Lemmo. “It’s insane.”
And judging by the crowds, it’s an insane hit. It’s been full every day — full of Bamie’s fans jumping at the chance for a reconnection.
“Everybody’s talking to each other even though they’ve never met before,” says Ann, “because they all have a story and they’re bursting to tell somebody.”
And like the pizza orders, those stories just keep coming.
“A guy came up and he ordered four beers,” remembers Bamie’s customer, Roger Crabbs, “and he gives him the beers and then he yells at Frank and says ‘we need the table wiped off and Frank threw him the dishrag. The guy didn’t like that and he threw the dishrag back at him. Frank said ‘Drink your beers and go.’”
“It was the greatest experience you’d ever have going to a restaurant and having a good time,” says former customer, Dave Kaili.
“You had to have a little heart to go in there,” Ron says “but after you got to know my dad he was the most lovable person you ever met.”
Frank “Bamie” Bonanno, his wide-crusted pizza, and the good times they guaranteed. They’re alive and well again in Des Moines.
Bamie’s Pizza will be on the menu at Gusto Pizza through Wednesday, November 15.