A tale of two pizza shops: Aiello’s and Mineo’s

Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill is dotted with countless restaurants and shops with diverse roots, but one competition between two family-owned pizza shops brings patrons from Squirrel Hill and all over Pittsburgh to see which family makes the better pizza.

Mineo’s Pizza House and Aiello’s Pizza sit six doors apart from one another and are embedded in a rivalry that keeps both shops in the limelight. Mineo’s was founded in 1958 by Giovanni Mineo in an area where pizza wasn’t popular.

Mineo's, one of Squirrel Hill's most popular pizza shops Photo by Alyssa Kramer

Mineo’s, one of Squirrel Hill’s most popular pizza shops
Photo by Alyssa Kramer

“Everyone thought he was crazy for opening a pizza shop in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood,” said John Mineo, Giovanni’s son and current owner of the shop, along with his brother Dominic. But Giovanni succeeded by respecting the culture of Squirrel Hill. “He would close the store during the major [Jewish] holidays and that gained the respect of the community.”

Aiello’s got its start straight from the kitchen of Mineo’s when Giuseppe Aiello arrived from Italy in 1967 with help from the family that he now competes with.

“My father helped him into the country,” said John. “He was an employee here and, after a falling out, opened his shop up the street.”

Aiello’s opened in 1978 and has since had success comparable to its counterpart.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve gotten bigger, we’ve stayed consistent,” said Mike Aiello, Giuseppe’s son and the shop’s current owner. “We use the best quality ingredients to stay at a consistent level.”



But he also finds that supporting his community is an important part of running a successful business. “We enjoy giving back. We donate to charity and sponsor a lot of the sports teams in the area,” said Mike. “They give it to us so we like to give it back.”

The competition between Mineo’s and Aiello’s has remained consistent throughout the history of the two star-crossed pizza joints, but the nature of the conflict has changed. “Our fathers were caught up in what happened in the past, but since they’re both gone, we kids just do what we do,” said Mike. “It’s a healthy competition.”

Since the founding fathers of both Mineo’s and Aiello’s passed away, Mike focuses on maintaining his shop’s local popularity. “You don’t want to watch what the competition is doing; you want the competition to watch what you’re doing,” he said.

However, the tension between the two doesn’t keep them from focusing on the main facet of running an eatery in a hip neighborhood: they both work hard to cater to the ever-changing population of Squirrel Hill.

Aiello's, one of Squirrel Hill's most popular pizza shop Photo by Alyssa Kramer

Aiello’s, one of Squirrel Hill’s most popular pizza shop
Photo by Alyssa Kramer

“Kids from Carnegie Mellon and Pitt live in the area and come through here a lot, and a lot of them are from different countries,” said John. “We want to make sure they’re coming back.”

The shops are well-regarded and proud of it, and the proof resides in the countless accolades displayed throughout both dining rooms. The walls of Mineo’s are painted with framed awards for “Pittsburgh’s Best Pizza” from newspapers and magazines throughout Pittsburgh, attesting to the respect felt by the city. Aiello’s features t-shirts signed by celebrities framed along with photos from across the United States of loyal customers wearing Mineo’s shirts.

And customers can see exactly how their pizza’s prepared. Take a look behind the counter of each eatery and you’ll see the stretching of dough, pouring of sauce, spreading of cheese, and the finished product being pulled from the oven. Pizza is definitely a staple of the college crowd, and the arrival of a new generation of patrons is something the owners embrace. However, they keep in mind that longtime customers’ loyalty is what has rooted their success in the neighborhood. And who doesn’t love pizza?

“Everybody likes it,” said John. “No matter what neighborhood I’ve been in, there’s always been a [pizza] shop that’s really popular.”

Mike believes newer community members can only make Squirrel Hill better.

“The newer crowd is bringing new ideas and new opportunities. That’s Squirrel Hill. That’s why people come here.”