Rather than a pizza shop with an organ in it, Organ Stop Pizza is an organ show that serves pizza. Each night in Mesa, Arizona, the largest theater pipe organ ever created rises on an 8,000-pound rotating hydraulic elevator to sit 10 feet above the nearly always at-capacity 700-seat dining room, brought to roaring life by virtuoso theater organists while patrons sup on pizza, pasta, and sandwiches under disco balls and spotlights. The 276-key organ is linked to a mind-boggling series of xylophones, glockenspiels, gongs, and cymbals. Marionette cats dance in unison within a recessed “stage” perched above the behemoth instrument. Co-owner Jack Barz recalls tourists who compared their experience at Organ Stop to the one they had at the Grand Canyon the day prior. One YouTuber called it “American eccentricism at its finest.”
The landmark attraction was the brainchild of the late William P. Brown, a veteran of both World War II and Wharton Business School. The real-estate developer, pizza enthusiast, and accomplished theater organist found ample time to pursue these varying interests and in fact saw no reason he couldn’t combine them. The original Organ Stop Pizza, opened in Phoenix in 1972, was such a success that it led to a second, larger franchise in Mesa three years later. Brown retired from the restaurant industry in 1984, selling the Mesa location to a longtime employee and manager, Mike Everitt, who carried Brown’s charge to continuously acquire rare parts and expand the organ—so much so that Organ Stop had to change locations in 1995 to accommodate its new dimensions.
Today, 42-foot-tall ceilings accommodate balcony seating for viewing the record-holding 1927 Wurlitzer console (insured for up to $5 million). Four industrial blowers pump pressurized air through the organ’s 6,000 pipes, allowing the Pizza Stop’s 300,000 annual dinner patrons to enjoy timeless compositions such as “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” “The Hills Are Alive” from The Sound of Music, “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King, the Star Wars opening theme, and of course, “God Bless America.”
Know Before You Go
The dinner-only restaurant is also cash-only, though there is an ATM on the premises.