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The City Journals

Murray's Italian Village turns 50

Dec 10, 2018 03:41PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Founding partners of Murray’s Italian Village, Louis Boyers (L) and Dusty Duffield (R), celebrate their restaurant’s 50th anniversary. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | s.delliskave@mycityjournals.com

Two special words can send longtime Murrayites salivating: pizza bender! 

Believe it or not, Murray’s most popular food icon has turned 50. When you reach a half century with no signs of stopping, you throw a party, which Murray’s longest-running restaurant, Italian Village, did on November 11.

Originally there were four Italian Village restaurants, the first created and opened by the Boyer brothers on 3300 South and State Street. Frank and Nick Boyer, while in the army and stationed in New York, worked side jobs in the restaurants of New York City. Having learned some of their favorite Italian recipes, they decided to partner with their younger brothers, Louis and Dick, to open an Italian restaurant back home in Utah.

“The recipes are all top-secret,” states Louis, the last surviving Boyer brother. “I still personally count out all the ingredients that go into the spaghetti and pizza sauce and salad dressing.”

After experimenting with calzones, Frank came up with idea of the pizza bender — a pizza bent in half. The brothers liked what they were tasting and decided to purvey their creation to the long-gone Bongo Club on Highland Drive. Demand grew, and the brothers decided to try marketing the Boyer Brother’s Pizza Bender to grocery stores.

That idea was a failure, as stores were not interested in the product, and the brothers ended up in debt, losing $15,000 in the venture. Still, they decided to expand on their original restaurant. In 1968, with store number three, the brothers found a partner in Dusty Duffield, who knew a location in Murray where he thought they would do well.

Murray’s Italian Village had no pizza bender on the first menu, recalls Dwight Crews, then a 16 year old and one of the first dishwashers. He also recalled the interesting clientele that came to the restaurant when it first opened. “We would close at 10 on Sundays, but all the square dancers would come in, so Dusty would have us stoke up the pizza oven.”

According to Crews, the pizza bender was served just to the staff by head chef Jim Loboto, who perfected it. Eventually, the owners decided that the pizza bender deserved a shot at the menu, and that’s how culinary history, at least for Murray, happened.

Crews was just one of the many well-wishers that returned to Italian Village to visit with Louis and Dusty. Italian Village has been a family affair—many in the Boyer and Duffield families still work there. Scott Duffield, Dusty’s son, recalled, “So many people got their first job at Italian Village. It is great to see where people ended up. Even longtime customers became family.”

While Louis, in his 80s, still helps manage the restaurant, Dusty has retired, and now his daughter Shay Bloomquist is his partner. After retirement, Dusty turned his focus to bowling and was inducted into the Bowling Hall of Fame in the Great Salt Lake Bowling Association this year.

According to Bloomquist, the restaurant cranks out, on average, 300 pizza benders a day—400 on Fridays and Saturdays. “The menu is relatively the same as it was when we opened. Our last change happened 25 years ago when we added tortellini, manicotti, and fettuccine,” stated Bloomquist.

The combination pizza is the most popular, but since the menu has been reliably stable for years, most people just tell the server the number on the menu to indicate which pizza they want. “Seventeen with green peppers,” exclaimed Louis, regarding his favorite pizza (pizza with sausage, onions, and pepperoni). 

During the anniversary party, past patrons, cooks, servers, and dishwashers all reminisced about their memories, including about when the restaurant employed a number of University of Utah cheerleaders—the line to get in stretched out the door.

In the kitchen, Louis and Dusty waxed nostalgic about the early days. “I wish I could go back to those days,” said Louis.