Monday, April 25, 2022

Knoebels and Cesari’s Pizza Reflect on 40+ Year Partnership

When thinking of an amusement park, the thrill of a roller coaster, a child’s smile while snacking on cotton candy and grandma defeating the competition at her favorite game might come to mind. 
Throughout the past 40 years, guests have also associated Knoebels Amusement Resort with Cesari’s Pizza. 

While the Cesari family is hanging up their aprons, Knoebels will continue to fill guests’ bellies with freshly baked pizza, but with a brand-new recipe.

The year was 1981, and Dick Knoebel had an idea. It was time for a new food stand, and it couldn’t be just any old food stand.

“Knoebels needed pizza,” said Richard “Dick” Knoebel, Park President. “Sure, it would’ve been much easier to order frozen pies to heat up and serve, but we weren’t looking for the easy route.”

The park wanted to delight guests with a fresh dough pizza, and Knoebel knew just the guy for the job – Carmen “Chuck” Cesari.

“Chuck had been booking Monday night dances at the Hawaiian Bandshell and became a friend,” said Knoebel. “I asked if he’d take on this new role, he agreed, and it’s been a wonderful partnership we will always look back on fondly.”

The food stand became a family undertaking for Cesari, his wife and his children. He would eventually become manager of the park’s Alamo restaurant and surrounding stands. Prior to his passing in September 2019, Cesari ordered food for Knoebels Caterings. His daughter, Angela Martini, operated Cesari’s Pizza, most recently with the help of her mother, Donna.

Martini recalled the family’s start with the Italian dish.

“As a young child, I remember my grandmother making pizza for the grandkids every Sunday,” said Martini. “While we had to change up that recipe just a bit to account for serving a crowd instead of a family, we still used fresh ingredients.”

Cesari’s Pizza became a favorite fare for parkgoers and earned numerous recognitions. As the pizza’s popularity grew along with park crowds, Martini saw the stand more than double in size. Through it all, the focus remained on the ingredients.

“We made our own sauce and shredded the mozzarella cheese,” said Martini. “What I’ll miss most is coming in every morning to make all of the fresh dough for the day.”

Martini will also miss the people at the park, but looks forward to traveling with her husband, Jim, who will eventually take a step back from his role as Knoebels’ head electrician.

When the park opens on April 30, Knoebels will introduce a brand-new pizza with some familiar qualities.

“Just like when we introduced pizza at Knoebels more than 40 years ago, it will be a fresh-ingredient pizza, dough and all,” said Knoebel. “We’re excited for our guests to try it and think they’re really going to love it.”

The yet-to-be-named stand will open with whole pies and slices of plain and pepperoni, and will expand offerings as the season progresses.

Photo Submitted by Knoebels