Woodhaven community mourns beloved Sal’s Pizza owner

Sal's Pizza Woodhaven owner dies
Dominick and Andrea Brienza (Photo via Facebook)

The Woodhaven community showed an outpouring of love at a vigil outside Sal’s Pizza on June 2 to honor Dominick Andrea Rubino Brienza, who passed away this past weekend.

About 50 people came out to Sal’s Pizza Thursday, June 2, to honor the memory of a longtime Woodhaven resident and beloved figure in the community. 

Brienza lived in Woodhaven for over 60 years and owned multiple businesses in the neighborhood — starting with a deli, then a laundromat and finally the well-known Sal’s Pizza at 85-07 Jamaica Ave. 

The pizzeria owner died after complications from back surgery he had a few days before.

Sal's Pizza Woodhaven owner dies
Dominick and Andrea Brienza at Sal’s Pizza (Photo by Debra Maggio)

Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar said she is mourning Brienza alongside her community.

“Like many others, I will remember Dominick most for the many hours I spent in his pizzeria, including when I brought Mayor Adams to meet him,” Rajkumar said. “Dominick, you will be missed by us all.”

Brienza, 73, emigrated from Monteleone di Puglia, Italy, in 1951 when he was only 2 years old. He lived in Brooklyn until he was 9 when his family relocated to Woodhaven, Queens, where Brienza would happily spend the rest of his life.

His wife, Andrea, said she will miss him but knows his legacy will live on in the community.

“Everybody loves Dom. He was the kindest, most caring person,” Andrea said. He never lost his temper, he wasn’t prejudiced, and he was just a good person. Everyone has their own stories of how his kindness touched them — how he would give them free food, or money, help them out, advice — he was just a very generous-hearted person.”

Sal's Pizza Woodhaven owner dies
Sal’s Pizza crew. (Photo courtesy of Debra Maggio)

Andrea shared that June 2 would have been their 26th wedding anniversary.

Brienza had a long history of volunteer work. He worked as a driver for Meals on Wheels and then became a social worker for Catholic charities. He then worked with a senior center, assisting seniors who were crime victims.

Debra Maggio, who worked at Sal’s Pizza, said she thought of Brienza as a father figure.

“He’ll greatly be missed. He was humble, always happy, listening and giving advice,” Maggio said. “I would always call him dad. It was not just like a business, it was like a family.”