When Rose and Jim Totino opened their first pizzeria in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1951, they probably never imagined that they’d be serving up 300 million Totino’s Party Pizzas each year.
As the legend goes, Rose convinced a bank to give her a loan to start Totino’s Italian Kitchen by baking a pizza and bringing it into the bank to help make her case. She got the $1,500 loan.
Their small pizza shop, originally intended to just sell take-out pizza, was soon transformed into a sit-down restaurant after customers asked if they would consider doing that. It was a hit. Rose and Jim made as many as 400 to 500 pizzas a day. A decade later, in 1962, they started Totino’s Finer Foods, mass-producing and selling frozen pizza that could be baked at home. It didn’t take long for the Totino’s brand to become the first big name in the frozen pizza industry and a national phenomenon.
In the ’70s, Pillsbury was looking for a way to get into the frozen pizza market. Totino’s provided the perfect solution, so Pillsbury acquired them in 1975 and finally had a foothold in the market. General Mills would later acquire Totino’s through their acquisition of Pillsbury in 2001.
Rose Totino became Pillsbury’s first female corporate vice president and worked directly with Pillsbury food scientists to perfect what would become the country’s first nationally distributed frozen pizza.
Totino’s signature “Crisp Crust” technology – one of the most notable features of Totino’s Party Pizza – was patented in 1979. The dough innovation allowed the pizza crust to stay crispy as it’s frozen as well as crispy when thawed and baked.
Jim Totino died in 1981. Rose passed away in 1994.
In 2008, Rose was inducted into the Minnesota Inventor’s Hall of Fame, for inventing frozen pizza and revolutionizing its crust.
Last year, Totino’s sold nearly $1 billion of its frozen goods and is considered the frozen pizza king in the U.S.