Backstory and Context
After her husband’s death in 1956, Domenica Coccia started a new chapter in her life by starting her own restaurant, opened in a few rooms in her home. From its inception, Coccia House brings an enclave of Italian and Italian-American culture to the rural Midwest. Even the family history is demonstrative of this idea. Before immigrating to Wooster, the Coccia family lived in Collepietro, a village in the Aquila region of Italy. Domenica used a mixture of traditional Italian and Italian-American recipes when crafting her menu. Although the menu has changed slightly over the years, the restaurant prides itself on keeping the food essentially the same over the past sixty years.
Domenica opened the restaurant during a time when the popularity of Italian eateries began to grow. Although a few restaurants and groceries started selling pizza in the United States in the early twentieth century, beginning in New York City, it did not become widely popular until after World War Two when American soldiers returned home from Italy with a newfound appetite for pizza. In response to growing demand, pizza shops began to appear across the nation between 1945 and 1960. Founded in 1958, Coccia House followed the national trend. At the time, pizza restaurants sourced most of their ingredients locally. They would often make their own mozzarella and toppings and would nearly always make their own dough and sauce, usually from fresh tomatoes.
Today, Coccia House does not claim to source its ingredients locally. However, much of the menu and staff has remained the same over the years. When Joe Calabria, the owner, celebrated his ninetieth birthday in 2013, the family contemplated the bonds that they have formed with each other and with community members over the years. His daughter noted that he still enjoys working the register and chatting with customers. Additionally, many customers have been eating there for decades. One group of friends has come nearly every Wednesday for dinner since 1958. Other customers, who are passionate about Coccia House’s pizza but have moved away can still order frozen pizzas. Even a soldier deployed to Iraq was able to receive the pizza he wanted through the mail. Mailing pizzas is one of the few changes Coccia House has made in recent years. Otherwise, the restaurant has remained mostly the same, promoting a sense of legacy and community for residents who have made memories at Coccia House.
Fare at Coccia House "is the same as we ate as kids". The Daily Record. May 22, 2008. Accessed June 26, 2018. http://www.the-daily-record.com/news/20080622/fare-at-coccia-house-is-same-as-we-ate-as-kids.
Gehring, Lydia. Coccia House's Joe Calabria Marks 90th Birthday on Monday. The Daily Record. July 14, 2013. Accessed June 21, 2018. http://www.the-daily-record.com/article/20130714/LIFESTYLE/307149516.
Iannarelli, Dominic Richared. A Touch of Italy in Wooster: Una Goccia D' Italia. Wooster, Ohio. self-published, 1968.
Levine, Ed. A Slice of Heaven: A History of Pizza in America. Serious Eats. Accessed June 12, 2018. https://slice.seriouseats.com/2006/02/a-slice-of-heaven-a-history-of-pizza-in-america.html.