Gondolfo’s—The New Pizza Place With That Old Style Taste
By: Jan Morgan-Swegle
I think that everyone has a favorite pizza place buried somewhere in the depths of their memory. You know the place — It was right down the street from where you lived and when you walked in, that smell of garlic, tomatoes and pepperoni slapped you in the face and made your mouth water.
For me, it was Peppi’s, in Cleveland, Ohio. Right there on the corner of West 98th street and Denison Avenue. It was a small, white building with big windows in the front and a red sign over the front door. I spent hours there either on dates or after the Youth Canteen closed on Friday nights. The cashier stood up front and answered the phone that was hanging on the wall, scribbling down new pizza orders while she counted out your change and told you to “come back soon.” It was a warm, comfortable place that served great pizza.
LIke many family owned pizza shops, Peppi’s is long gone, replaced by big named chains with cheese and pepperoni carefully measured and counted to a specific recipe so each pizza is the same.
A few days ago, I was at Food Lion off of Lanvale Road and I happened to see Gondolfo’s Pizza. Gondolfo’s is part of the strip stores near the grocery store, on the very end. I walked in and was overwhelmed by my favorite pizza smells. It was like going home again. The kitchen, which is spotless, is open and you can watch Pauly, one of the owners, create magic with handfuls of cheese, fresh tomatoes and basil, and a variety of meat toppings.
Pizza dough comes out of the ovens hot and bubbly. Pauly spins it, builds it and puts the finishing touches on before it’s picked up with the pizza paddle and put back into the stone oven.
The finished pizzas sit in a large glass case right in front of the kitchen. They offer the Neapolitan Style NY Pizza, Sicilian, White, Crostata, Supreme, The Godfather and Veggie Lovers, in addition to Buffalo or BBQ Chicken, Alla Vodka or you can build your own. Want more? You can also get Calzones, Strombolis, Heroes, salads and appetizers. Beer and wine are also available.
Although Gondolfo’s has that old style pizza shop feeling, everything is brand new. So why did Pauly and co-owner John pick the Town of Leland to open Gondolfo’s? John said, “We’ve been talking for years about opening a shop. I live in South Carolina and Pauly lives in Wilmington. When Pauly finally moved down here, we looked at more than 100 places online and physically visited twenty of them. We knew right away; this was the place for us. We believe in this community. It’s just going to grow and get better. The hospitality of the people around here is great, they’re friendly, helpful and really supportive,” he said. “We made an offer and closed in 3 weeks. Then, we tore it all apart and built everything new. Our landlord, Wilfred Bufkin, has been very supportive of what we are building here. He knows we plan on being around for a long time.”
Gondolfo’s opened in late October. Paul (Pauly) Lore and his partner, John Thompson are originally from Lake Ronkonkoma, New York. They grew up together and formed a 45-year friendship and now, partnership. “You asked if this is a family-owned business,” Pauly said. “Well, I grew up with John. We lived on the same street; we went to the same schools. He’s like a brother. If that’s not family owned, I don’t know what is. Plus, Gondolfo was my father’s first name, so every time I come here, he inspires me. He was a city bus driver and a great guy.” John agreed, “I spent a lot of time in Pauly’s home and with his family. As soon as he suggested the name Gondolfo’s, I knew it was right. The name of a business is really important. It should have a meaning; and Gondolfo’s does. Gondolfo’s is a legacy.”
Paul and John wanted to bring “authentic” Italian style, pizza to Leland. And they have done a great job. John said, “We’ve been open for 32 days and have sold over 4,000 pizzas.” Added Pauly, “We sold out the first two days. We didn’t expect the volume we had when we first opened. The business just took off. We were understaffed, but we’re doing better now.” John added, “We want to get our production time down to around 30 minutes; so if you call at 5, you can pick up your pizza at 5:30. We’re close to that now. The staff is better trained and we have a better idea of what Leland wants. The wheels are getting oiled so we can exceed the customers’ expectations.”
Pauly said, “There aren’t many pizza places here in Leland and we have definitely filled a need. We offer New York style pizza—thin crust, seasoned sauce, and the best tomatoes. People here just love our food.” He continued, “We get a lot of business from Compass Pointe, and one day a lady told me that our food reminded her of Little Vincent’s pizza in Lake Ronkonkoma. That was a great compliment. Little Vincent’s on Smithtown Boulevard, had the best New York style, authentic Italian food.”
But John and Pauly are doing more than making pizza and authentic Italian food. “We’re hiring students from around the area,” John said. “We’re not only teaching them how to make pizza, we’re teaching them the business. We want to expand — have more Gondolfo’s Pizza Shops, but also good Italian restaurants and bars. We want to develop the staff that has been with us from the beginning to be able to manage our other sites and help us grow the businesses.”
John and Pauly plan to make some changes in 2023. “In the spring, we want to add outdoor seating. We want to be able to do online ordering and maybe even have a food truck for events and parties. There’s so much we can do.” Above all, Pauly and John want to keep that feel of an old family pizza shop, where you can come in and enjoy the best Italian food in the area.
Gondolfo’s, Paul and John are excellent additions to the landscape of Leland. They bring the style of New York cuisine, the small-town friendliness of Lake Ronkonkoma and the diversity that makes all of us interesting, small-town neighbors.
Gondolfo’s is located at 1735 Reed Road, NE in Leland. They open at 11 am, and you can place your order by calling 910-833-5666. Go online at www.gondolfos.com to check out their full menu.
This coming year, give yourself a treat. Say goodbye to frozen grocery store boxed pizza and get over to Gondolfo’s. Once you do, you will adopt their slogan—"Gondolfo’s Pizza, Y’all can’t fuhgettaboutit.” What a great blend of north meets south!