It’s just after 4 a.m. on a recent Friday, and Vito Mannino is opening the door and turning on the lights at Vito’s Original Pizza in Blue Springs.
This has been a consistent routine as he and his son Onofrio and their “pizza family” have supplied the Blue Springs School District with 400 to 500 pizzas every Friday during the school year for the past 14 years.
The routine is much the same on Wednesday mornings, as the Manninos and their crew supply 400 pizzas to the Fort Osage School District. And every Friday night that the Blue Springs or Blue Springs South High School football teams are home, Vito’s delivers 20-plus pizzas to the press box.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” said longtime employee Sung Jung.
“Friday mornings are busy because Vito is making a lot of pizzas for the Blue Springs School District, and Friday nights are fun because I get to watch the game after we deliver the pizzas to the press box.”
The Manninos’ relationship with the school districts is something the “Pizza Man” has earned for more than a decade of hard work and dedication.
“I can’t even begin to tell you what Vito means to our school district,” Blue Springs School District Activities Director Mark Bubalo said. “First off, I can’t even imagine making 400 or 500 pizzas that morning, and delivering them later in the morning.”
“And Vito’s been doing it as long as I can remember. And whenever we need pizzas for a meeting or something like that, I go up and pick them up and he always has a couple of slices for me in a sack, for me to take back to school or the district office.”
“He’s special, a one-of-a-kind individual who would do anything for kids and the school district.”
Fort Osage Superintendent Jason Snodgrass feels the same way.
“Let’s see, we’ve received pizzas from Vito’s the past 12 years, and I’ve been here in the Fort Osage School District for 12 years – there has to be some sort of correlation because I love Vito’s pizza,” Snodgrass quipped.
“When the kids or faculty members know that Vito’s pizza is going to be served they line up and can’t wait. We offer other things for lunch, but everyone always stands in line for Vito’s.”
Mannino, his son Onofrio and their 12-member pizza family have their Wednesday and Friday routines down to a science.
“People hear we make 400 or 500 pizzas and they say, ‘Pizza Man, you’re crazy,’” chuckled Mannino, 67.
“It was such an honor for the Blue Springs and Fort Osage school districts to trust us with feeding their students and staff. And by now, we know what we’re doing.”
He punctuates the comment with a wink.
Throughout the week, Mannino makes all the pizza dough fresh that day. He will go through 35 or more 50-pound bags of flour.
“I don’t think anyone knows how hard my dad works,” Onofrio said, “because this is his place. He’s up here seven days a week, and he gets in around 4 on Wednesdays and Fridays and around 5 or 5:30 the other days of the week.”
“He takes so much pride in this place – we all do.”
And because of the popularity of his pizzas, calzones, gyros and subs, Mannino is known far beyond Blue Springs.
“I don’t want to brag,” Mannino said, grinning, “but I am in an airport in Arizona and I hear someone say, ‘Pizza Man, it’s the Pizza Man.’ That made me feel good.”