Trolio's Book Expands History of Brier Hill, Birth of Its Pizza"
By Elise McKeown"We didn't call it Brier Hill pizza when we lived there," says Tony Trolio. "All our mothers made that pizza."That pizza, the legacy of the Italian immigrants who settled in Brier Hill at the start of the 20th century, has become a staple in the diet of many Mahoning Valley residents. "Everybody has a version of it," Trolio says. "Doesn't taste the same, but they do their best."Trolio grew up in Brier Hill and is the author of two books on the neighborhood."I'll take credit for the name," Trolio continues. He tells the story: Years ago when he moved to Poland, he told a friend who owned the Inner Circle Pizza chain, "I need real pizza. I need Brier Hill pizza."Most who lived in Brier Hill came from southern Italy and used Romano cheese instead of mozzarella on their pizza. A month after making sure his friend tried some, Trolio was invited to the restaurant. There, on the menu, Brier Hill pizza was listed. "So that was the first time the words Brier Hill and pizza were put in print," Trolio says."That was in 1971."Brier Hill sausage is another food tradition to come out of the neighborhood. "We called it black gold," Trolio remembers. Only four of the original families who settled in Brier Hill remain there today, notes Mike Varveris, who edited both of Trolio's books. "They introduced pizza. They introduced pasta," Varveris says. "They introduced the dishes, some of the customs and mores in this area." The Brier Hill neighborhood is bounded by West Federal Street, southern Belmont Avenue, Wirt Street and the Girard city limits, but the borders "move over a street or so," Trolio says, "depending on who's telling the story."Brier Hill, in general, in addition to food, made its mark in Youngstown, in the Mahoning Valley," Trolio says. Determined to preserve the stories of the Hill, with the encouragement and help of Varveris, who wrote Rocky Marciano, The Thirteenth Candle, Trolio penned a book about Brier Hill."You didn't put my family in," he heard repeatedly after it was published in 2001. He got e-mails from as far away as Hawaii and Ireland, from people with Brier Hill stories to tell. "People from Brier Hill are spread out all over the world," he says. Realizing there were many more stories to tell, he wrote the second book, released in June.Brier Hill USA, the first book, was 176 pages long and included 60 photos. It sold 3,500 copies, Trolio says. He began working on the second, Brier Hill USA: The Sequel, and discovered a wealth of new information. "I ended up with a bigger book," he says."People are proud of their heritage -- and their neighborhoods," says Joyce Frattaroli, who typed the manuscripts of both books. There was so much new material, she says, that "We had to cut out a lot of pictures." The Sequel, at 208 pages with 120 photos, contains the stories of 60 Brier Hill families. "I want to make sure everything's in print, documented, and in the libraries," Trolio says, "so later on when people of the younger generation want to know what happened in Brier Hill, it'll be there."Thirty years ago Trolio founded Trolio's Original T-Shirts before retiring last year and turning it over to his daughter, Sherry Ann Trolio.In 1995, he started Ciao Promotions and remains its producer.Contact Elise McKeown at email@example.com"
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