rico’s Pizza earns Local Flavor Award for signature crust, sauce options, and a dedication to customer service
by Melanie Jongsma, with Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (February 8, 2023) – First, let’s talk about that lowercase “r” in “rico’s Pizza.” That is not a typo. That is the correct way to identify the little pizza shop on the east edge of Lansing, at 3651 Ridge Road. The shop is named after the original founder, Phil Derrico. Since “rico” is the second half of his last name, it is not capitalized, unless it’s at the beginning of a sentence. One could argue that the shortened name should have an apostrophe at the beginning — ‘rico’s — but it doesn’t. That’s just the way it is. The name is rico’s Pizza.
Rico’s Pizza (capitalized here because it’s at the beginning of the sentence) first opened in December of 1975 in the basement of what longtime Lansing residents will remember as the Party Tap, located at the corner of Stateline Avenue and Ridge Road. Several years later rico’s Pizza moved to the current location at 3651 Ridge Road.
rico’s Pizza contact info
Address: 3651 Ridge Road, Lansing IL, 60438
During our visit to rico’s Pizza, The Lansing Journal was served a Village Veggie pizza as well as a Pepperoni Lovers, two of the pizzeria’s popular offerings. Both were delicious. But through conversation with Debbie Pluard, Wanda Price, and Cindy Price, we determined that it is not a specific pizza that makes rico’s special. It’s an underlying commitment to serving their customers.
That commitment shows up in the quality of the ingredients they use, but also in the personalized attention they give to customers. One couple, for example, differed in their crust preferences — one wanting it extra crispy and the other preferring a standard crust. Rather than forcing the pair to order two pizzas, the staff at rico’s put the pizza through the oven, then held half of it in the oven for an additional few minutes, giving that half an extra-crispy crust.
On another occasion, a repeat customer called in an order that was different than his usual. Rico’s called him back to double check he hadn’t misspoke. Turns out, he was ordering for a larger group this time, and had to stray from his usual order.
“We go out of our way to accommodate our customers,” owner Debbie Pluard said.
Beyond the personal attention rico’s gives to its customers, there are two signature items that make rico’s Pizza different from others — their signature crust and their signature sauce.
Signature pizza crust: Hand-rolled and thin
The staff at rico’s consider a pizza crust to be mainly a vehicle for delivering the other ingredients — “the stuff you really want” — to your mouth. They don’t believe in thick crust — it distracts from the meats, cheeses, and other toppings that people are specifically ordering. They buy quality ingredients to mix their dough in-house, using a massive mixer fondly referred to as “Big Bertha.” That dough is then hand-rolled into a crust that is nearly cracker-thin. The crust of the veggie pizza we ate was particularly crispy, even more so than the pepperoni crust. Pluard and Wanda and Cindy Price explained that on a veggie pizza there are fewer oils dripping from the ingredients and baking into the crust. The crispy crust provided a delightful base for the vegetables, which maintained their juiciness throughout the baking.
Signature sauce: Regular or spicy
Rico’s Pizza is also known for their sauce. It’s a hearty, flavorful sauce that is not too sweet, made of a tomato puree and a variety of spices. For pizza-lovers who want a little extra zest, rico’s offers a spicy sauce that is enhanced with crushed red pepper. The sauce is hot, but not to the point where it overwhelms the flavors of the other ingredients.
“We take pride in our pizza and we make it with love,” said Wanda Price, who’s been working at rico’s for nearly 30 years.
No dine-in option is available at rico’s, only delivery or carry-out. Parking is available in a lot on the west side of the building. For patrons who have mobility issues, rico’s staff will bring their orders out carside.
- Rico’s Pizza is still family-owned, so they have more direct control over their costs. They work hard to maintain the level of quality their customers appreciate, while still keeping prices reasonable. “Do what you can, the best you can,” is their unofficial motto.
- Besides pizza, rico’s offers a beef sandwich that is popular with customers, as well as pastas and salads.
- The little shop on Ridge Road has attracted customers from as far away as Missouri, who order 20 pizzas when they come each year. They’ve also got a a regular customer in Sweden, who, when in town for other reasons, orders pizzas to take back home.
- Staff at rico’s have occasionally tried new flavor options, or fun programs like a Pizza of the Month Club, but customers say they aren’t interested in gimmicks, just pizza.
- Though the menu is intentionally devoid of thick crust options, rico’s can accommodate requests for a thicker crust.
The Lansing Journal published a Local Voices piece about pizza in our town, and author Derek Barthel listed rico’s as his personal favorite:
- Local Voices: Lansing’s pizza legacy — past, present, and future (published June 2022)
- Lansing Journal launches Local Flavor Awards
- Local Flavor Award winners, updated listing
- Who else deserves a Local Flavor Award? Nominate a Lansing restaurant (click to send an email)