Tons of Irvington teenagers were saddened to hear that the sunglasses-wearing, doo-rag-sporting, eclectic pizza maker "Romeo" (last name off the record) planned to sell his , painting over many of the psychedelic murals on the walls of his tiny-but-cozy eatery and putting the place on the market.
But Romeo has bigger dreams than serving up his unique "pockets," "pandas" and ginormous slices of Pizza to and students; he wants "Romeos" to be the next "Papa John's."
But, you know, better—
"I've been doing this for over 20 years," Romeo said Wednesday, while simultaneously schmoozing with customers and cooking and serving about nine lunch orders. Though the store has been open in Irvington for only four years, he was previously at Tony's and Main Street Pizza in Tarrytown.
"I made those places number-one," he said.
By flashing photos of his creative heros, specialty rolls and calzones on a moving screen on the restaurant's counter, Romeo is working to establish a brand name for his unique Italian fast food. "I want to start my own company," he said nonchalantly. "There was always the first Taco Bell, McDonalds or Dominos. People say I'm crazy, but I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I didn't at least try."
Romeo has always wanted his shop to be kid-friendly. That's why he included a red, cushy couch in addition to regular pizza parlor booths and painted bright graffiti-type art on the walls.
"I also listen to what the customers want," he said. "I can't name a signature menu item; I'll give a customer whatever he or she asks for."
Romeo's theory is that [many] adults have deadened their taste buds by drinking coffee and alcohol or smoking cigarettes (Editor's note: Confession, it's 7 a.m. and I've already had three cups of black coffee...strong.)
"The best pizza is what's kid-approved," he said.
Slices at Romeos would satiate Michael Phelps or Arnold Schwarzenegger (heck, the two might even be able to split one and forgo dessert.)
Asked if he went commercial, whether he would down-size the scale of his food, Romeo laughed.
"Are you kidding; if I had the money, I'd make it bigger," he said. "I'd have DJ tables, a barbecue pit...pizza's about parties. I want my brand to be about fun and parties."
Hastings resident Tim Dayton comes all the way from the southern border of the Rivertowns (passport not yet required) for Romeos' pizza. "It's very unique and not expensive," Dayton said. "If Romeo opened up more shops, sure I'd go out of my way to find a Romeos."
Caileigh Cappello, Courtney Ferraro, Amanda Cappello and Brian Ross—all IMS and IHS students—enjoyed lunch at Romeos wearing sweats and pajamas during their winter break this week.
"It's really good—a great place for friends to hang out," Ferraro said.
"I love the BBQ slice," Ross said. "He puts more chicken on than anyone else."
Romeos Pizza Inc. has been on the market for two years. The owner isn't too concerned about hindering his ability to sell the shop.
"I've had lots of people interested, but nobody who matches the style of this place," he said. "The ideal buyer would be creative and willing to listen to all the kids who come here. Teenagers are the cornerstone of a great pizza place."
Pizza toppings include: pepperoni, sausage, fresh green peppers, fresh mushrooms, artichokes, anchovies, onions, black olives, fresh garlic, sliced tomatoes, jalapenos, nutella, strawberry/raspberry jam, reeses peanut butter, popcorn, bacon and extra cheese.
Premium toppings: buffalo chicken, bbq chicken, grilled chicken, breaded chicken, clam (Editor's note: clam??), hamburger, meatball, tuna , asparagus, eggplant, spinach, roasted peppers, and broccoli.
So hopefully by the time Romeo's current patrons are in college, they'll be able to call on their old go-to pizza guy to satiate their midnight munchies...from anywhere in the country—or maybe we'll start small—with just the East Coast.
Check out Romeos' website here.