Dominick’s Pizza Shoppe
Part of an astonishingly productive pizza family, one father-and-son outlet celebrates 50 years of staying small, simple and hospitable.
Sicilian immigrant Dominick Scavo was a true pizza pioneer in his family; at just 17 years old, he opened his first pizzeria with brother Sal in Brooklyn, New York, in 1965. Two years later, the brothers established Dominick’s Pizza Shoppe in Bridgewater, New Jersey, and Dominick soon passed the reins to Sal. The domino effect had begun: Dominick and his four brothers went on to open 50-plus pizzerias coast to coast, a tradition that continues today with networks of family members operating outlets in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
But Dominick’s, the little location that could, is the oldest survivor, celebrating 50 years in 2017. “Pizza’s in the family, in our blood,” says Vito Scavo, son of Sal and owner of Dominick’s. “My dad and his brothers spent their lives opening, running and selling pizzerias—a real rags-to-riches story, because they came from nothing and built an empire. But at one point my dad decided to keep just one location, and this has been our bread and butter, our rock.”
Vito grew up in the pizzeria, but—at his father’s insistence—received an education before officially joining the business. After graduating culinary school, he embraced pizza as his niche while respecting Dominick’s roots, maintaining a limited menu where thin-crust and Sicilian pies still shine in a humble location that’s less than 1,000 square feet. “We don’t try to do it all; the one thing people come for is pizza, and that’s what I concentrate on,” Vito explains. “You don’t need to be the biggest or most glamorous place to do things right. Simple is better—that’s always been our motto.”
Sal, though now less active in the business, still arrives regularly for his “pizza fix,” offering input, ensuring operations are kept to standards and greeting longtime customers, some of whom have remained loyal for decades. “It’s kind of amazing to see those roots; my father served them, and now I serve them, their kids and grandkids,” Vito says. “It’s very heartwarming to have those loyal customers, feed the next generations and keep up what my dad started.”
In fact, that face time is what Vito lives for: talking to people in the community, helping the local police department and youth sports teams, brightening a customer’s day with a fresh slice. “That’s what makes it great, that customer interaction,” Vito says. “Without them, we wouldn’t be here 50 years—and, hopefully, we’ll be here another 50 years. The high of the day is when you see you’re pleasing your customers. Working in a pizzeria is the greatest job in the world.”