When you walk into Romeo’s Pizzeria in Ozone Park, you’re greeted with a glass display of some of the restaurant’s most popular slices, including Grandma and spinach and cream pizzas.
On the opposite side is a wall of newspaper clippings, photos of celebrities the owners have met and a poster of Italian proverbs with sayings like “Friendship and macaroni are best when warm” and “Who eats well, lives well.”
Hundreds of people eat well every day at Romeo’s, which has been serving the community at 103-20 Liberty Ave. in Ozone Park since 1984. Romeo’s owner, Donny Salerno, said that the restaurant is ideally situated near the A train and the nearby John Adams High School, which both provide a good deal of foot traffic.
Salerno said that John Adams students are some of his best customers. Recently, he said that he has noticed many new faces frequenting the restaurant and also mentioned a lot of the longtime customers whom he recognized have since moved away.
The Howard Beach resident took over the family business from his father Jerry in 2013, though he said he been around the restaurant “since birth.” The third-generation owner of Romeo’s said that the history of the restaurant dates back to Italy, where his great grandfather started making pizza in Naples. His father and grandfather came to the United States in the 1970s, and opened their Liberty Avenue location a decade later.
Since taking over, Salerno said business has gone up “a lot” thanks in part to his efforts to “modernize the place.” He said that the only changes he made to the business were aesthetic, including new bathrooms, signs and counters. Despite the changes, Salerno said the food served remains unchanged, using the “same ingredients” in his family’s original recipe.
Salerno speaks passionately about Romeo’s and is sentimental about the business. Though his uncles and cousins have all owned or worked at Romeo’s in other locations, he’s one of the only ones in his family who still runs the family-owned restaurant.
“[Romeo’s] has been in the family for years. I gotta keep it going,” he said.
Aside from selling pizzas, the restaurant owner also values giving back to the community, which is something he learned from his father and wanted to carry on in the present. Included on the decorated walls are plaques which recognize the donations and support that the Salernos have given to the Ozone Howard Little League, which Salerno was part of as a child in the late 1990s.
“I donate where I can. What you put in, you give it back; that’s what it comes down to,” said Salerno, who also mentioned that he donates to a local men’s softball league.
In the future, Salerno said that he has plans to “redo the place” and his goal is to open up a second location of the restaurant.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Salerno said.