Corato Pizza celebrated 60 years of business on Thursday at its satellite location, Corato Pizza II, on Myrtle Avenue.
Local politicians including Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Assemblyman Mike Miller, state Senator Joseph Addabbo and Councilman Robert Holden came to honor the establishment, share their memories and grab a slice.
“Sixty years ago if you wanted pizza in New York City, you’d buy it at a bakery. My mom was a busy mom — there were three of us. So when Corato’s opened that was a big day for us,” said Nolan. “It was such a successful business because it was delicious, convenient and again, women were beginning to go to work.”
In 1959, Sal Leo and Richard Ferrucci came to America to open the restaurant and named after the town in Italy where they emigrated from, bringing home recipes with them. Corato Pizza II was opened in 1988, and bought a decade later by Marco Cerbone, who now co-owns it with his son, Marco Jr.
Through the restaurant’s lifespan, the ethnic makeup of Ridgewood has gone through some radical changes. Nolan noted that when the original Corato’s opened it was still primarily a German-American neighborhood, so the addition of authentic Italian fare was then considered a novelty.
Cerbone said the satellite restaurant is a relic of the 1980s when Italians moved to the neighborhood in greater numbers. He had immigrated to the U.S. in 1974 and started working at the original restaurant at the age of 14. He and his son Marco Jr. have come up with some of their own recipes like his famous pasta boscaiola, a creamy dish with mushrooms, bacon and tomatoes.
“It was always in my blood to be a cook and own my business,” Cerbone said.
He added that the owners of the original restaurant have always treated him like family. While running the business has been a challenge and sacrifice at times, Cerbone said that he received support from the city in the early 2000s through a storefront improvement program to fix up their signage and bring more customers in.
“They own the building and are merchants. So they’re doubly invested,” said Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District that runs from Wyckoff Avenue to Fresh Pond Road. Renz estimates that the restaurant is one of the oldest in the BID.