In a sense, Michael Tozzi is doing what he did for decades before opening Tozzi’s on 12th with his wife, Chris, in 2007: cooking with his mother.
She’s gone now, but her recipes, and also her son’s recipes, remain on the menu at Tozzi’s on 12th.
“I cooked in Magnolia, when my parents had it, and the recipes were my mom’s,” Tozzi explained. “I came up here (to Canton) in 2007, and the recipes followed me—the seasonings and the sauces and the signature dishes.”
Tozzi’s on 12th is known for its steaks—“We do two different sizes”—and fish dishes.
“We do five different kinds of fish—trout, salmon, scrod, scallops, and I run a feature of the day.”
A third category of entrees—Italian cuisine—remains traditionally popular, particularly that lasagna for which the Tozzi family is known.
“Our own homemade lasagna containing special filling with handmade layers of pasta, meat and ricotta cheese,” the menu says, “baked in our own Mama Tozzi’s red sauce.”
Tozzi also makes a popular dish he calls “Italian CPR.”
“It’s chicken with hot pepper and cheese,” he said. “It’s got a little bit of a bite to it.”
Michael Tozzi still toils at a labor of love in the kitchen, preparing food, and his wife, Chris, manages other areas of the restaurant.
“My wife and I ride up to work together,” said Tozzi, “and we ride back home together.”
Although Chris and Mike Tozzi’s children—Michael, Jordan and Brittany—have gone on to other careers, they spent time in the restaurant as the fourth generation of the Tozzi family.
“And we have other family members working,” Michael Tozzi said. “If they’re not family, we make them family.”
Still, despite the name on the sign in front of the restaurant, the family working inside the establishment and the multitude of signature dishes that tie the eatery to a familiar Tozzi’s of the past, one of the most popular traditions is one that wasn’t part of the Tozzi’s legacy. But, it is now.
“We do a lot of banquets,” said Tozzi, who makes steady use of a large banquet room that has been part of the restaurant since its life as “Four Winds.”
And one of the largest and most well-known groups to regularly dine in the facility is the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club, which holds its weekly lunch meetings and lectures Mondays from autumn until spring.
“We’ve had a lot of sports celebrities in here (because of the luncheon club meetings),” said Tozzi. “I think we’ve had just about every one of the recent enshrinees.”
It is the ordinary folk among us who have maintained the tradition of eating at Tozzi’s on 12th.
“It’s a destination restaurant,” Tozzi said. “People who know us keep coming back.”
2. Large Strip Steak. “What makes it different is the seasoning. It’s garlic-based, and it’s a family recipe that’s been around for three generations.”
3. Chicken Grecci. “Grecci is a little Italian village. My wife’s grandparents came from there, as did my grandparents, so we honor them with a pasta and chicken dish that’s got a light and fresh taste.”
Tozzi’s of Magnolia, owned by David “Duke” Tozzi and his wife, Dina, has a geographical tie to the past, of course. The restaurant at 144 N Main Street, Magnolia, is in the same location in the village where Tozzi’s grandparents ran a bar and store for miners and brick workers beginning in 1914.
Tozzi’s on 12th, operated by Michael “Mike” Tozzi and his wife, Chris, for more than a decade, reaches far back for many of its menu items. Tozzi cooked at the family’s Magnolia restaurant before he headed off on his own in 2007. And he brought many of the family restaurant’s featured dishes—along with the skills he learned at the side of his parents—with him to the Canton location at 4210 12th Street NW near Whipple Avenue.
“We’re two separate restaurants,” said David Tozzi, “with different menus,” added Michael Tozzi. Still, there is a link between them that spans generations. And there is a name on the signs of both restaurants that remains familiar in the community.
The brothers agree that the restaurants share a history and a legacy that has been passed down through their family over more than a century.