Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tradition! Important to family, pizza

Local pizza shops, the ones we know and love to the very bone, never just spring up out of thin air. No, they have a history behind them, sometimes, dating back several decades.

And Village Pizza, in the left corner pocket of the Mendham Village Shopping Center, is no different.

"Before we talk about the history of this place," co-owner Guy Poggi says as he sits at one of his booths with his fingers intertwined, "I have to tell you about the history of my father. He pretty much started everything."

Poggi's father, Robert Poggi, was born in Yorkville, N.Y., where he met his wife. They were married in 1951 and have been married for 58 years.

"I've been married for 15 years," Poggi says, referring to his wife, Audrey, who is the other owner of the shop. "So I can imagine 58 years."

In 1961, his father moved from New York to Randolph and worked as a butcher at the ShopRite in Mendham. He had bigger dreams, though; he purchased his own shop, which became the Colonial Pantry in Mendham as we know it today.

"He owned that building," Poggi says, "From there, he purchased Sorrento Pizza, which at the time was half pizzeria, half barber shop."

Currently, Sorrento is still family run — by Poggi's brother.

"It's great because we look at it as friendly competition," Poggi says.

From there, his father expanded his reach in Mendham, eventually purchasing Village Pizza and offering to sell it to his son Guy when he was still in college.

"At the time, I had no intention of buying it because I was working part-time here, but it was a good business opportunity," Poggi says, "So I purchased it from him, and I've had it for 16 years now."

The shop has a friendly vibe to it, with yellow and red walls and plenty of chairs and booths that fill the comfortable eating space. But Poggi wants to do a little more with one wall that's almost bare.

"It's always a work in progress," he says, "We're getting pictures of my father, of my grandfather, my great-grandparents, my mom's parents, and we're going to be covering the walls with them, kind of paying a tribute to them."

The food is the real tribute, though. The menu has been expanded while keeping many of the basic ingredients the same.

"We offer more gourmet pizzas now than say, they did years ago," Poggi says. "We have soups, and we have four pie sizes, an 18-, a 16-, a 14- and a 10-inch pie."

When asked which pie was the bestseller, he says, "Obviously, a 16-inch pizza is going to sell, because that's what most people sell. But being that we have an 18, that's kind of a unique thing. If people want to feed more people, they can get larger slices."

From these larger slices, they can get a wide variety of pizza, such as a tortellini Alfredo, a taco pizza, white pizza, buffalo chicken pizza and a flat variation of pizza that those in the know call a "grandma slice."

"Some people (will look at it) and say, 'Can I have a grandma slice?' " Poggi says, "And some people will come in and look at it and ask, 'What is that?' "

One of his favorite reasons for working at Village Pizza is because he loves the town of Mendham so much.

"Mendham is a great town. It's very affluent, but at the same time, people are very down to earth," he says. "We have a lot of our customers who are repeat customers who have been coming here for years. I don't even know their last names anymore because I know their first names. So it's a very close knit, tight community."

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