HIDDEN GEM: Family-owned restaurant enters its 7th decade of serving great pizza in Vandalia

Steve and Sarah Dent, owners of Christy's Family Pizzeria in Vandalia.
Steve and Sarah Dent, owners of Christy's Family Pizzeria in Vandalia.

Credit: Ashley Moor

Credit: Ashley Moor

If you’re a resident of Vandalia, it’s likely that you’ve either heard of or frequented Christy’s Family Pizzeria. For those who live elsewhere in the Miami Valley, however, Christy’s may be more of a hidden gem.

For more than six decades, Christy’s Pizza, as it’s informally known, has been serving up delicious pizza and supporting the community.

Christy’s Pizza was founded in 1960 by Dan and Betty Collinsworth. At the time, the couple simply took over an old restaurant already bearing the name Christy’s, and it eventually stuck. However, to make it their own, Collinsworths tacked on “Family Pizzeria” to the name and began offering a variety of pizzas and additional entrees, like cabbage rolls, that pay homage to their Hungarian roots.

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Steve and Sarah Dent are the owners of Christy's Family Pizzeria in Vandalia.
Steve and Sarah Dent are the owners of Christy's Family Pizzeria in Vandalia.

Credit: Ashley Moor

Credit: Ashley Moor

In the early years of its operation, the Christy’s Family Pizzeria empire boasted several locations throughout the Miami Valley — including Tipp City, Huber Heights and Vandalia. Six decades later, the only location that is still in operation is the one located at 503 S. Dixie Dr. in Vandalia. Originally, that location served as a delivery and carryout center only, until a dining room was added to the space in 2007.

Dan and Betty Collinsworth operated the pizza restaurant until they passed it down to their son, Dan Collinsworth Jr., who retained ownership for about 15 years until selling it to his brother-in-law and its current owner, Steve Dent. Dent grew up in Huber Heights and Centerville before moving to Detroit. Then, in 2005, Dent and his wife Sarah moved back to her hometown and purchased Christy’s Pizza.

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Vintage photograph of baseball team sponsored by Christy's Pizza.
Vintage photograph of baseball team sponsored by Christy's Pizza.

Credit: Ashley Moor

Credit: Ashley Moor

“We decided it was our chance to get close to family back here in Dayton,” Steve Dent said. “The big draw to it was that we knew Christie’s was a community staple and that it had a great reputation. The only thing I wanted to do was continue to promote the quality and the mantra of great pizza, family and community.”

Despite the fact that Dent had minimal experience in the restaurant industry, he knew that the job was the right fit for him from the start.

“The bug just bit me,” said Dent. “I never thought I was going to be a pizza guy, but the opportunity came around. It was perfect for us to get back to Dayton to raise a family and continue on with this legacy.”

Pizza from Christy's Family Pizzeria, located in Vandalia.
Pizza from Christy's Family Pizzeria, located in Vandalia.

Credit: Ashley Moor

Credit: Ashley Moor

Christy’s Pizza has maintained what its owner described as a symbiotic relationship with the Vandalia community. Over the years, the restaurant has sponsored several of Vandalia-Butler Schools’ sports teams and other community organizations in the Vandalia area. The restaurant has provided further help to Vandalia-Butler Schools through the Brent Collinsworth Memorial Fund that was established in the memory of the son of Dan Collinsworth Jr. Brent was a former Vandalia-Butler student who died unexpectedly in 2010 at 23 years old.

The employees of Christy’s Pizza can likely also speak to this sense of community, as many have remained loyal to the restaurant for upwards of 30 years (even some delivery drivers have been working there for a decade or longer). The community’s loyalty to the restaurant can also be seen in the local students who take their first jobs at Christy’s Pizza.

“We take great pride in giving probably half of Vandalia their first job,” Dent said. “We’ll give just about anybody a shot to work here. I tell everybody when they start that I don’t want them to here forever. I want them to get their work ethic under their belt and learn some basic stuff. And then, hopefully someday, they’ll look me up and tell me ‘I remember when I was that dishwasher.’”

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Christy's Family Pizzeria's famous cabbage rolls.
Christy's Family Pizzeria's famous cabbage rolls.

Credit: Ashley Moor

Credit: Ashley Moor

Aside from switching up the occasional specialty pizza or side, the menu at Christy’s Pizza has remained the same over the past six decades of business — for good reason. The restaurant’s French dressing, cabbage rolls and specialty pizzas, such as its Fajita, Greek and BBQ Chicken pies, come from decades-old recipes and command great loyalty among customers.

The coronavirus pandemic forced Christy’s to shut down its dining room for more than two months in 2020, but Dent was determined to avoid laying off any members of his staff. The support from the community has been enough to sustain Christy’s Pizza throughout one of its toughest years to date.

“We never had to lay off anyone or reduce hours,” the owner of Christy’s said. “It’s always been a personal commitment for me that if people wanted to work, that we had a job for them. And, of course, the business from the community gave us that opportunity. We’re thankful, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from this community, to be honest.”

For more information about Christy’s Family Pizzeria, visit www.christysdelivers.com/home or its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChristysFamilyPizzeria.

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