From pizza fanatic to pizzeria owner
Just about every town has its own favorite local pizza place. For many in Tucson, it’s Tino’s Pizza.
Located at 6610 E. Tanque Verde Rd, Tino’s Pizza has been serving Tucson since 1984. Though its address changed around in the past, it found its home at its current location in 1993.
Tino’s Pizza is owned and operated by Dino Choinis, who got his start in the business as he was growing up, working in pizzerias through high school and college. His time in the industry prompted him to open his own pizzeria – Tino’s Pizza.
“I just grew up working in [the pizza business] and I had an opportunity to get one going so I went for it,” Choinis said.
According to Taylor, an employee at Tino’s Pizza, the pizzeria’s name is a mixture of the owner’s name Dino and his sister’s name Tina.
Tino’s Pizza’s is more a traditional pizzeria, differentiating it from pizza chains, Choinis said.
“Everybody has their own take on pizza,” Choinis said, “we just consider ourselves like a traditional kind of pizza, with a family atmosphere.”
Over the years, Choinis has employed his family members but now focuses on hiring youth in Tucson.
“When my kids were little, they worked here, but now I just have employed a lot of younger people from the community and schools – U of A, Pima,” Choinis said.
Beyond the community focus, everything at Tino’s is made to order from scratch.
“[The dough] is hand-stretched,” Choinis said. “We make all our products daily, fresh – dough, grate cheese, make tomato sauce, chop fresh vegetables, things like that.”
Additionally, Tino’s Pizza has options for pizza-lovers with dietary restrictions and will do their best to be accommodating to any request, according to Choinis.
“We do … vegan, vegetarian, we have a gluten free crust,” Choinis said.
As for what sets Tino’s Pizza apart from other restaurants, their focuses are customer service, high food quality and supporting local businesses.
“I think that’s why we’ve sustained 35 years,” Choinis said.
Tino’s Pizza also has a wide local following and sees many people come back for more.
“We probably get about two to five [regulars] depending on the day,” Taylor said.
One such regular, Thatcher Klumpp, has been eating at Tino’s for 23 years. Right out of college, Klumpp began working at National Semiconductor, an electronics manufacturer, at its location on the same stretch of Tanque Verde as Tino’s Pizza.
Klumpp discovered Tino’s when a coworker took him there and has been going back ever since.
“Because [Tino’s Pizza] was practically right across the street, sometimes we would just walk there,” Klumpp said.
According to Klumpp, he ate there at least once a month, and some of his coworkers went more often than he did.
Although he has since moved jobs, Klumpp still occasionally stops by the restaurant. For him, Tino’s Pizza stands out for its tasty menu, good prices and consistently great service.
“It’s in my top five favorite pizza places,” Klumpp said.
Other long-time customers Debbie and Chris have been coming to Tino’s for over 20 years. They had begun going to the restaurant when it was located in Marana but followed it to its current location on Tucson’s east side.
When asked how Tino’s held up to other pizzerias, both said it was better than others, with Chris adding with a laugh, “We come back.”
As for what to order there, Taylor recommended either the buffalo chicken pizza or the buffalo chicken sandwich.
Debbie said her “go-to is the meatball sandwich,” with Chris in agreement, saying it was one of his favorites as well.
Tino’s Pizza offers a variety of hot wings, breads, salads, sandwiches, alcoholic beverages and, of course, pizza from personal pizzas to pizza by the slice to “The Big Mo,” a 20-inch party pizza. Tino’s menu also features a few University-of-Arizona-themed specialties like the “Calzona” and “The Wildcat,” as Choinis is an Arizona Wildcat fan.
For more information on Tino’s food and prices, visit their website at http://tinospizza.com/.
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