The bad news: After 45 years, Westport Pizzeria is closing its Main Street doors.
The good news: The day after it happens — later this month — the legendary, much-loved restaurant will re-open around the corner.
The new location — 143 Post Road East — was most recently the site of EATalia. It’s got great Italian bones: Before that, it was Joe’s Pizza. Even earlier, it was the bizarrely named S&M Pizza.
Owner Mel Mioli says his landlord — Malkin Property — sent him a non-renewal notice around January 1. Earlier, Mel says, Malkin offered him a 5-year lease if Kate Spade — 2 doors down — did not rent the entire building. But that didn’t happen, Mel says. Then the landlord stopped answering letters, emails and phone calls.
Now Mel is out. So is Kate Spade. And — in between them — Francois DuPont Jewelers.
At first, Mel says, he was sad. After nearly half a century on Main Street, the pizzeria he and his brother Joe founded has become a Westport institution. Customers became friends — and he’s watched their children, and now grandchildren, grow up.
But a couple of years ago, Mel bought the 143 Post Road East property — just in case something like this happened.
Now, that’s a hot location. Just a few steps away are a host of restaurants: Post 154. Finalmente. La Villa. Blue Lemon.
Westport Pizzeria’s new space is a lot larger than the beloved — but very narrow — Main Street site. Mel is renovating the Post Road property, making it bright and welcoming.
He’ll add a few dishes to the menu. Plus — grazie! — beer and wine.
Mel’s initial sadness has turned to excitement.
“I’m very, very happy,” he says. “We’ll take care of old customers better than before, and I know we’ll make new ones.”
The other day, he walked past his new Westport Pizzeria. The sidewalk was packed with pedestrians. “I can’t wait to open,” Mel says.
So will he stay another 45 years on Post Road East?
“At least!” Mel promises.