Pizzeria owners a family business in the truest sense

By Louis Hoglund

The new pizzeria owner in Pelican Rapids has a name, a logo, and a signature menu feature to match the guy:  Big John.  

“Big John” LaFerriere, and family took over Pelican Pizza earlier in February.  The new logo, a husky Pelican–with eyeglasses–was adapted from a photo of LaFerriere himself. 

A new, “big deal” on the menu? 

The “Big John” dine-in special–a 22 inch pie the size of a manhole cover. “It’s massive,” said Big John, with a smile nearly as broad as a pizza pan. 

Well…the fact is: John is a “big guy,” he confesses. 

The menu will carry most of the favorites folks have come to know and enjoy, from prior owner Tony Huseby and from the previous “Jimmy’s Pizza” days. 

An insider tip for longtime Pelican Pizza fans: Big John is reviving a special, customized cheese blend that connoisseurs will likely remember from the past. And, the specialized spice blends in the sauces will continue. 

There are some personalized touches, in true family business style.  The three LaFerriere kids–all students in the Pelican schools–have menu items named in their honor. 

Janae’s Fettuccine.

Lily’s Mac and Cheese

Chris’s Bacon Cheeseburger pizza. 

Rounding out the family unit: Mom, with Alicia’s Cinnamon Treats. 

Expect to see four of the five LaFerriere clan in the pizza shop on a fairly regular basis, depending on school sports, band, choir and activity schedules. 

Mom Alicia will be behind-the-scenes, for the most part, keeping the books and on top of the paperwork.  She has a full-time professional position with North Dakota State University, as manager of course materials at the NDSU book store–which includes overseeing the inventory of college text books and other curriculum items. A Rice Lake, Wisconsin, dairy farm kid, Alicia earned her undergraduate degree at Moorhead State, and an MBA graduate degree at NDSU. 

As for Big John, he’s been in law enforcement for 20 years–including some part-time evening and weekend work for the Pelican Rapids Police Department since 2018. A graduate of Moorhead State in criminal justice and sociology, Big John went on to Alex Tech for law enforcement certification–and has been with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department full time. John said he plans to keep his police certification up to date, and may continue to work some part-time shifts for the Pelican PD.  

Other than a few short term jobs in food service, Big John is new to a full service restaurant operation.  However, that doesn’t mean he is new to food.  A Bagley, Minnesota, native, his mother was a food service veteran at nursing homes in the Bagley and Fosston areas–up north, west of Bemidji. 

“She taught me almost everything I know about food service,” said John.  

The shop will continue deliveries, within a 10 mile radius of Pelican. Interestingly, the shop has developed an unusual “niche market” by delivering to boat landings, catering to folks picking up a pizza for their pontoon groups–or for those coming off from ice fishing.

Beer service will be discontinued.  The LaFerrieres are focusing more on a “family dining” strategy.  Along with that direction, they will be adding a specialty of the  “1919 Draft Root Beer brand,” on tap–plus a special-processed ice cream, specifically crafted for root beer floats. Big John may experience walk-in traffic just for the floats, particularly during the summer months. 

Big John’s will be continuing the “punch card” promotion.  

Hours will continue at Wednesday to Saturday,  11 to 8 p.m.; and Sunday from 4-8 p.m; but Big John may make seasonal adjustments in the near future.