Sbarro, Inc., owns, operates, and franchises a Domestic and International chain of family-oriented Italian restaurants under the "Sbarro" and "Sbarro The Italian Eatery" names. Most of these are buffet and cafeteria-style restaurants located in food courts in shopping malls. Others are found in airports, toll-road rest areas, sports arenas, hospitals, universities, casinos, and downtown locations. The Sbarro menu offers pizza, pasta, hot and cold Italian entrees, salads, sandwiches, cheesecake, and other desserts at a modest price with fast service. As of December 2003, there were 915 Sbarro restaurants, located in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and in 26 countries across the globe. A total of 528 of these were company-owned and operated; the others were franchised. Members of the founding family took the company private in 1999.
In 1956, Gennaro Sbarro (pronounced zah-BAHR-ro) and his wife Carmela emigrated from Naples, Italy, to Brooklyn with their three young sons, Joe, Mario, and Anthony. The Sbarros wanted to open a salumeria--a gourmet Italian delicatessen--like the one they had back in Italy. To earn the money to do so, Carmela worked as a seamstress and Gennaro, Joe, and Mario worked in various delis in the city.
In 1959, the Sbarros opened their salumeria in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, offering sandwiches, pasta dishes, and homemade cheesecake. The deli was a hit, and by 1964 the family had opened three more. Working behind the counters, the Sbarros noticed fewer customers were "taking out" their purchases. Instead, they were eating the deli food before they left the store. "Customers were standing at the counter eating pasta," Mario Sbarro told Business Week in 1987. "We knew we were on the threshold of something different." Responding to customers' needs, the Sbarros put in some chairs and tables and started offering hot food, such as pizza and lasagna.