Passing the pie: Founding family of Choppy’s Pizza sells business to new owners

Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 9:47 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2021 at 10:22 PM CST
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CHISHOLM, MN (CBS 3 Duluth) - 67 years ago, the Silvestri family took a leap of faith and opened a restaurant in downtown Chisholm.

“My mom and dad, they opened up in 1954 and at that time it was called ‘The Dairy King.’ He started off just having desserts and coffee and ice cream,” said Shirley Taramelli.

Her parents Charles, better known as “Choppy,” and Sophie Silvestri eventually opened the oven to pizza. But not just any pizza; this pie was special.

“The ingredients and the sausage. The cheese, we put a lot of cheese. The crust, just everything is unique from other pizzas,” said Shirley. “It evolved from there and then Choppy’s Pizza was born.”

Almost 70 years later, Choppy Silvestri’s dream became a tradition for so many people.

The secret ingredient to keeping customers coming back is pretty simple.

“Don’t move the recipe around,” said Linda Silvestri.

When asked how many pizzas she has made in her time working at Choppy’s, she said too many to count.

“Can I say about a million,” said Linda with a laugh. “I’ve been here since I was 16 and now, I don’t even want to say my age but many, many, many.”

In that time, Linda literally became part of the family marrying her now-late husband, Geno Silvestri, and eventually owning and operating the family business.

“We had some good times here. It was just one happy family,” Linda recalled.

After spending most of their lives serving other families, Shirley and Linda decided it was time to focus on their own.

“It’s been a few years already because as you get older you just want to have more time because we all worked here so long. Long hours and hard, and it just comes to a point where you have to just slow down and be with family and friends, and just live,” said Shirley.

As she took her last order inside the business her family built, Shirley said memories came flooding in.

“I choked up. It was very hard to say goodbye and I didn’t want to say goodbye, I wanted to say so long. I appreciated all the years that we’ve had people come here since my dad started in 1954 and they’re still coming in here. They’re elderly now, but they’re still coming in here and their kids and their kids-kids, and it goes down the line. So, I appreciate it so much. All the years of supporting our family,” said Shirley.

As a new generation takes the reigns, the spirit of Choppy’s will remain.

“Everybody is afraid of new changes, but new change is good. It is good. You bring to the table something new maybe, add an item. It’ll be okay,” said Linda.

When asked if the recipe would stay the same, Linda answered without missing a beat.

“The recipe has to!”

New Choppy’s owner, Josh Aikey, agrees.

“Everybody loves their Choppy’s Pizza. We didn’t want to mess with anything, just wanted to add a little spice to it, bring in a change in atmosphere. People like having a beer with their pizza, so just little things like that.”

Aikey is an Iron Ranger and owns another business in town.

He said, as a kid, he worked for different pizza places and loved every minute of it, so when the opportunity to buy Choppy’s came up he wanted a slice.

The Aikey’s will be taking on this new business as a family, as Josh’s wife and parents will also be involved in the restaurant.

Choppy’s is open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

The Aikey’s also plan on offering delivery to customers and hope to open up a patio space in the future.

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