Pizza and pasta pay for daughters' college education

March 24, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- For 28 years, seven days a week, Ursula Russo has run Tony's Pizza in the Los Angeles Farmers Market.

A German immigrant, who moved to America shortly after WWII, Russo married an Italian immigrant named Tony Russo. The couple started Tony's and had two daughters, Antonietta and Eva.

Unable to go to college herself, Russo made it her mission to ensure her daughters would get the education she'd once desired.

But by the time Antonietta finished high school, Ursula and Tony had divorced. Russo knew she'd have to keep the pizzeria if she were to finish what she'd started for her daughters.

"There is such opportunity in this country, and I always told my daughters that they must take advantage of it," Russo told Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. "You have to work for it, but the sky is the limit."

In the end, both daughters were admitted to UCLA, and Russo paid their way

As they left for college in the morning, Ursula caught the bus to work at 6:41 a.m. When the girls were free, they helped at the restaurant.

Today, Antonietta is 32 and a clinical psychologist in Salt Lake City. Eva, 30, teaches German language and literature at Penn State University's Erie campus.

At 65, friends ask Russo when she'll retire. Her daughters say that won't come soon, because the pizza shop is her life.

"I have customers who say they come back because the food is the same as it always was," said Russo. "I can guarantee the quality of it, and there are people who need me here."

Russo views her life in America as a blessing.

"This is a country where a German immigrant can send her daughters to college selling spaghetti," she said. "God bless America."

Topics: Independent Operation

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