PUNXSUTAWNEY —Laska’s Pizza in Punxsutawney has been serving up its sweet sauce for 31 years, keeping the tradition alive and in the oven for many more to come.
Owner Katie Laska said the business has developed many regulars and generations of families as returning and happy customers.
Laska’s used to only serve pizza, at $3 a pie back in the day, Katie said. The menu has since been expanded to include breakfast, stromboli, salads, sandwiches and more, and the business has added outside dining as well.
“I try to do things that aren’t in Punxsy yet, like starting the breakfast pizza,” Laska said.
It has always been important to her, though, to keep the price low and affordable, Laska said. A regular pizza still costs only $7 this many years later.
Many people who bring their children back into Laska’s today are from the first generation who ate there almost 30 years ago, Laska said. Some who grow up and leave town return just to get a piece of the past and show their children and friends where it came from.
“People in their 30s come back now because of the tradition,” she said. “They bring their kids back here now and they can eat the pizza their parents had.”
Laska’s Pizza is #2 on the “Ultimate Pizza Bucket List in Pennsylvania” survey done by www.onlyinyourstate.com, which tends to bring in many Groundhog Day and Groundhog Festival tourists wanting to try the renowned recipe.
“A lot of them say ‘this is different pizza,’” Katie said. “We don’t get many people who don’t like it.”
Out-of-towners come and get their photo taken with Punxsy Phil outside the restaurant, leaving with a courtesy goody bag of Groundhog-shaped sugar cookies and a “Happy Groundhog Day” Punxsutawney Phil coin.
Much of Laska’s success is in the sauce, Katie said, which has a sweet recipe that has worked since the beginning of business.
“The sauce is what makes the pizza different than any of the shops around,” she said.
The recipe for a successful business includes more than just a tasty sauce, though — it’s about a love for tradition and making customers part of the family.
Laska’s passion for Punxsutawney history is displayed all over the walls through old photographs and famous Phil memorabilia.
“I’m proud of Punxsy, and history is important to me,” she said. “It’s a conversation piece for anyone who comes in here. A lot of traditions have disappeared, and it’s so important to keep things and appreciate the past.”
Through yard sales and auctions and wherever else she can dig through memories, Katie collects any historical items that have to do with the town she loves. Locals also bring her Punxsy items they think she might want to display.
“Punxsutawney is a special place in general,” she said. “There is a lot here.”
Katie said she has a love for the small-town feel and being able to call her customers by name, as well as developing a business that teaches different generations of employees the value of a good work ethic.
“A restaurant teaches you the value of hard work,” she said. “If you work from the bottom up and work hard, you will succeed.”
Proud of where she comes from and where she’s going, Laska doesn’t plan to change much about the business in the future, adding, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” There is beauty in keeping things the old fashioned way and honoring your roots.
Katie’s love for the business is so great that she says she hopes she never has to retire, since it’s part of her engrained work ethic to see her dream through until the end. Maybe one day, though, she will pass the business on to her children — who have been raised to be hard and dedicated workers like their mother — and keep the tasty tradition going.
Katie added she is aware there is a rumor circulating that Laska's Pizza is opening a DuBois location, but there is no truth to the rumors.
For more information, visit www.laskaspizza.com or call (814)-938-4647. Laska’s Pizza can be found on Facebook and is located at 405 N. Main St. in Punxsutawney.