Founder George LaBrasca Jr. hired “pizza queens” to attract hungry customers with samples
A young “pizza queen” named Elaine Nolan stands in the kitchen of LaBrasca’s Pizzeria, which claims to be the first restaurant in Charleston to serve slices of the classic Italian dish. In 1955, George LaBrasca Jr., who worked for his family business LaBrasca’s Spaghetti House, traveled to a food show in Chicago sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. Inspired by its exhibit on pizza, he started making pies and hired “pizza queens” to attract hungry customers with samples from the iconic menu. On the Italian side, chianti bottles hung from the ceiling, Effie “Mama” LaBrasca made heart-stealing spaghetti sauce, and folks flocked to the balcony for first dates and proposals. In the other half of the space, which was decorated with Chinese lanterns, diners could enjoy egg rolls and other Asian fare. The enterprising family built an empire of restaurants across the Lowcountry and Midlands, where George LaBrasca Jr. opened a pizzeria in Columbia that is still in operation today.