Sunday, November 02, 2008

The True Backstory of Mystic Pizza

I recently reviewed my favorite Pizza Movies of all time. You can watch the review here.

One of the films I mention is Mystic Pizza.

Mystic Pizza was somewhat of a cult movie in that it launched the career of Julia Roberts, who had a leading role in the film. Also featured was Anabeth Gish, and Lili Taylor.

The film is less of a pizza movie and more of a coming of age movie analyzing the cultural and female struggles of three high school friends who work at a pizza place. While pizza is featured in the movie, pizza is more of a backdrop for the relationship story. It really is an innocent movie.

And I did enjoy it...

Although, I give Mystic Pizza, an honorable mention, I may have to re-think my position after uncovering an article published in The Day Newspaper (New London, Connecticut) on Sunday October, 19, 2008. The story written by Kenton Robinson, was an eye opener.

Mystic, itself has a piece of my heart because I grew up and went to high school in Southeastern Connecticut. I recognize where the scenes were filmed. The area is quite beautiful with lots of New England charm.

My brother and sister-in-law live in Mystic.

I have countless friends who have remained in Southeastern Connecticut. Although I haven't lived there for many years, I can't deny it is still part of my life.

But the facts surrounding the film is what really amazed me.

Here's what I learned from Kenton's story:

  • Mystic Pizza's original name was Ted's Place. The Zelepo's family bought the pizzeria from Ted and changed the name. ("There's no Ted here. Let's call it Mystic Pizza.")
  • A 19 year old Julia Roberts, Anabeth Gish (16), and Lili Taylor (20), tried to buy beer at Mystic Pizza but were turned down because they did not have an ID.

    ("But we're in the movie," they explained. John Zelepos, who waited on them, said: "Well I'll see you on the Big Screen". They never did get their beer.)

  • The number of pizzas served during peak Summer hours: 600.
  • Number of menus stolen each year: 30,000.
  • In 1987, there were the three Zelepos who worked there (John, his mother and father) and three waitresses. Now there is a staff of 65. My how things have changed.
  • The owners of Mystic Pizza never received a penny in compensation for allowing film producers to use the name Mystic Pizza.

    As a matter of fact John Zelepos, owner of Mystic Pizza, stated: "We let them use our name. We didn't charge them any money for it. We didn't think it was going to be big or nothing. We said 'As long as it isn't a porno movie or nothing like that'".

Originally the producers wanted to rent Mystic Pizza for six months, during the course of the filming. The owner said: no way. People may forget about us in six months.

The producers filmed elsewhere.

How is the pizza at Mystic Pizza? Some locals and visitors claim it really is "A Slice of Heaven".

In honor of the 20th Anniversary of the film, the State of Connecticut Tourism Bureau created a document, which will allow you to visit all of the actual locations used in the movie. It's a great resource with lots of behind the scenes information. You can download the "Mystic Pizza 20th Anniversary Movie Trail" pdf. here.
(Right click and save)

You can also visit with me as I explore Southeastern Connecticut. Connecticut videos at my Connecticut Page at

Of special note is my Abbot's Lobster in the Rough Video. One of my favorite lobster places of all time, located in Noank, Connecticut, the next town over from Mystic.

So if you get a chance, see Mystic Pizza again. And if you haven't seen it, you are in for a treat!

pizza in Mystic,

albert grande
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