In July of 1992, Chef Anthony Russo introduced his New York-style pizza to the state of Texas with the development of Russo's New York Pizzeria and Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen. As his company marks 20 years, Russo has announced plans for expansion across the U.S. and internationally.

The brand currently has 28 restaurants open and operating throughout Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas. During the first half of 2012, new units opened in Pembroke Pines, Fla., Corpus Christi, Texas, and Conway, Ark. The company currently has 26 restaurants in various stages of development and plans to open five additional restaurants by the end of the year.

Additionally, Russo's has signed a franchise deal to open 26 restaurants throughout the Middle East, including locations in Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar. The first international Russo's restaurant is slated to open in Dubai in September.

"Two decades of success would have not been possible without the support of such dedicated franchise owners and customers," said Russo, who opened his first restaurant at age 17 in Galveston, Texas and his first Russo's New York Pizzeria in 1992. "As we continue to grow our brand, we look forward to introducing Russo's throughout new parts of the country in the next several years."

Also in 2012, the Houston-based restaurant franchise has implemented a new gluten-free menu to complement its existing Italian favorites. Russo's New York Pizzeria and Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen guests can now request a gluten-free crust for any of the 23 pizza varieties available at the restaurants. The gluten-free crust is available for a 12-inch pizza only.

Additionally, the company has recently launched a Chef Anthony Russo retail line. The line is highlighted by six varieties of New York style gluten-free pizza (Greek, New York Style, Margherita, Chicken Rustica, Pepperoni and Italian Mozzarella, as well as Mulberry) and a Sicilian 100-percent organic single-press extra virgin olive oil.

"We have implemented many positive changes that will help us achieve long-term growth goals," Russo said. "Our restaurants have always been a gathering place for families and friends. With the launch of our retail line, our goal is to provide consumers with a healthy, authentic Italian meal that they can enjoy together in the comfort of their own home."

Read more about franchising and growth.

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