What began as a family grocery store in 1966 grew into one of Groveport's favorite family restaurants, Little Italy Pizza.

What began as a family grocery store in 1966 grew into one of Groveport's favorite family restaurants, Little Italy Pizza.

In 1966, Chuck's Little Giant grocery store was a staple of downtown Groveport but by the late 1970s, supermarkets were pushing the Little Giant out of business. That was when son Nick Ward took over from his parents and put the business on a new track.

"My parents still own the building and I've been running the business ever since 1979," Ward said. "In the '70s, the large grocery chains were becoming too much for us, so I moved us in this direction and we've been successful with Little Italy ever since."

According to Ward, his sons, Aaron and Avery, are both regular fixtures at the restaurant now, continuing the family business along with Ward's mother, Janet, who continues to keep the books.

"My mother's still taking care of the bookwork and finances while my oldest son runs the night shift and is our head cook," he said. "My youngest, Avery, is 15 and likes to take care of our technology, including running our Facebook page and web marketing."

The restaurant's best-selling menu items are the fettuccini al forno, a dish of wide pasta noodles baked with meat sauce and cheese, similar to lasagna, according to Ward; as well as the homemade spaghetti and meatballs, another favorite with the regulars.

"We want to provide a high-end product for our customers at the lowest prices we can, so I'm proud of the fact that we make everything we can in-house, like our pastas and meatballs, so that means we can spend our money selecting the best of the best ingredients," he said.

"The key to success for me has been to know my customers and personalize our service to their needs. I like getting to know these people and that way, I'm able to reflect on our conversations and put that personal touch into the food we prepare for them."

Keeping up with all of the growth along Hamilton and Gender roads has presented a challenge, but so far, Ward said he believes Little Italy's relationship with Groveport, the quality of the restaurant's food and service have allowed it to stay successful.

"We've got a lot more competition out there now with the big franchises, so I always want to let people know how much I appreciate the support our customers give us," he said. "We offer a family-friendly, casual dining experience and we like to focus on those local families.

"We have the ballfields right behind the restaurant, so we're happy to be able to provide a place for families to come and enjoy a good meal after the games."

For more information, call Little Italy Pizza at 614-836-3056 or visit the restaurant at 619 Main St. in Groveport.