Dec 11, 2014 • By

How Totino’s got its start

When Rose and Jim Totino opened their first pizzeria in Northeast Minneapolis in 1951, they probably never imagined that they’d be serving up 300 million Totino’s Party Pizzas each year.


A story is told that Rose convinced a bank to give her a loan to start Totino’s Italian Kitchen by baking a pizza and bringing it into the bank to help make her case. She got the $1,500 loan that the Totino’s needed.


Their small pizza shop, originally intended to just sell take-out pizza, was soon transformed into a sit-down restaurant after customers asked if they would consider doing that. It was a hit. Rose and Jim made as many as 400 to 500 pizzas a day. A decade later, in 1962, they started Totino’s Finer Foods, mass producing and selling frozen pizza that could be baked at home.

It didn’t take long for the Totino’s brand to become the first big name in the frozen pizza industry and a national phenomenon.


Totino’s production plant, Fridley, Minnesota (1971)

Totino’s was acquired by Pillsbury in 1975, after the company had been searching for a way to enter the frozen food category. Totino’s provided the perfect solution. General Mills acquired Totino’s through the acquisition of Pillsbury in 2001.


Rose Totino was Pillsbury’s first female corporate vice president and worked directly with Pillsbury food scientists to perfect what would become the country’s first nationally distributed frozen pizza.


Totino’s signature “Crisp Crust” technology – one of the most notable features of Totino’s Party Pizza – was patented in 1979. The dough innovation allows the pizza crust to stay crispy as it’s frozen and then thawed and baked.

Jim Totino died in 1981. Rose passed away in 1994.

In 2008, Rose was inducted into the Minnesota Inventor’s Hall of Fame, for inventing frozen pizza and revolutionizing its crust.


Last year, the Totino’s brand posted sales of $960 million and is considered the frozen pizza category leader in the U.S.

Editor’s note: Look for more posts in our “Origin Stories” series in our History category. 

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