Tag Archives: Mel Mioli

Westport Pizzeria Parties Like It’s 1968

In October 1968, Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey battled it out for the presidency. Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave glove-and-fist black power salutes on the medal stand at the Mexico City Olympics. “Hey Jude” sat atop the record charts.

And on October 12, 1968 — its opening day of business — Westport Pizzeria sold a slice for 25 cents.

Joe and Mel Mioli, with a wai tress and customers in the early days.

In October 2018, we all know what happened after Nixon became president. We’ve seen how far our country’s race relations have progressed — and how much further we have to go. “Hey Jude” is still a great song.

It costs quite a bit more than a quarter to buy a slice these days. Westport Pizzeria is no longer an anchor on Main Street.

Westport Pizzera on Main Street. This photo could have been taken in 1968, or 2008.

But it hasn’t gone far — just around the corner, on Post Road East. And the special, basic-but-so-good recipe has never changed.

This Friday (October 12) the pizza place celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special deal: They’ll sell slices for 25 cents. Sodas are even cheaper: 15 cents.

In 1968, Westport Pizzeria was the only game in town. Now there’s competition everywhere, from thick-crust Planet and gourmet Tarry Lodge to train station Romanacci.

But the Mioli family — the founders and still the only owners of Westport Pizzeria — must be doing something right. A restaurant doesn’t last 50 years here on luck alone.

Some don’t even last 50 days.

Some things never change.

Pizza Principles 101

For years, Westporters have watched Jacques Voris turn dough and tomato sauce into delicious pies at Westport Pizzeria. He figures he makes 25,000 a year.

Many are awed by his pizza-making skills. Others wonder: How hard could that be?

Everyone (age 13 and up) now has a chance to try. Voris and his restaurant are offering “Pizza Principles”: a (truly) hands-on class in pie-making.

There are sessions every Sunday this summer, from 10 a.m. to 11.

It’s a group activity (up to 3 people per group). Each makes its own pizza, from start to finish.

You won’t take your finished creation home, though.

You’ll eat it right there.

Jacques Voris, at work.

 

(The cost for each “Pizza Principles” group is $30 — and includes all ingredients. To register, click here.)

Kevin O’Brien Returns To Westport Pizzeria

As promised this morning, Kevin O’Brien — the once-homeless Westport teenager who turned his life around — came back to town today.

One of his dreams was to visit Westport Pizzeria. As noted in an “06880” post earlier this month, Kevin once subsisted on 25-cent slices, not far from “Needle Park” where he spent his nights.

A couple of years ago the pizzeria moved around the corner, from Main Street to the Post Road. But the slices taste the same. And this afternoon, owner Mel Mioli was there to greet Kevin.

Kevin O'Brien (left) and Westport Pizzeria owner Mel Mioli. (Photo/Jack Whittle)

Kevin O’Brien (left) and Westport Pizzeria owner Mel Mioli. (Photo/Jack Whittle)

Kevin is no longer homeless. He’ll spend tonight at the home of an “06880” reader, who reached out to him after reading his story.

Westport has changed a great deal since 1970, when Kevin was a kid.

Some of those changes are great. Others — not so much.

But we’re still a place that draws folks back. And once they’re here, it’s nice to know we still draw them close in.

All’s Well That Ends, Mel

For Westport Pizzeria, one door — the one at 107 Main Street — closed yesterday.

But another one opened today, at 143 Post Road East.

Here — without missing a beat — was the noontime scene:

Westport Pizzeria 1

Westport Pizzeria 3

Westport Pizzeria 2

It was Day 1, of the next 45 years.

Westport Pizzeria: Big Changes In Store

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.

Westport Pizzeria owner Mel Mioli. His shirt says, "Serving generations with kindness and love since 1968!"

Westport Pizzeria owner Mel Mioli. His shirt says, “Serving generations with kindness and love since 1968!”

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.

A familiar scene, for 45 years. The backs of the shirts say "A true slice of Westport."

A familiar scene, for 45 years. The backs of the shirts say “A true slice of Westport.”

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.

At the end of the month, this will be just another Main Street memory.

At the end of the month, this will be just another Main Street memory.

Eat!

Over the past few years, Westport’s pizza places have multiplied like mushrooms.

The latest entrant — with a menu that includes plenty of other Italian dishes — is EATalia. (Get it?)

What makes this new restaurant blog-worthy is that it replaces another Italian place: Joe’s Pizza. The site is the Post Road, opposite the old post office.

But Joe’s did not disappear. It relocated up Main Street, to the small shopping center past Avery Place that includes Sally’s Place.

That puts it just a few pies away from Westport Pizzeria — which hasn’t changed anything (except a few prices) for 43 years, to the delight of pizzaphiles everywhere.

And — to complete the circle — the landlord for EATalia is Mel Mioli. That’s right: the owner of Westport Pizzeria.

Mamma mia!

pizza

Westport Pizzeria: On The Move From Main Street?

For years — as locally owned businesses have left Main Street — Westporters have said, “At least we’ve still got the pizzeria.”

How much longer, though, is uncertain.

Mel Mioli

Owner Mel Mioli confirmed this afternoon that Westport Pizzeria — a downtown fixture for 43 years — may not be there much longer.

He’s negotiating a new lease. If the terms don’t work out, he won’t renew.

The good news: He’s got a new place lined up.

Westport Pizzeria would take over the space that will be vacated when Joe’s Pizza — just around the corner on the Post Road, opposite the old post office — leaves.

Joe’s is moving too — coincidentally to Main Street. The new location will be the small building that houses Sally’s Place.

As for Westport Pizzeria: There are “a couple of months of negotiations left,” Mel says.

“We’d like to stay here. We’re used to it. But we’ll see what happens. We’ve got time.”

Mel does not seem worried. “If we have to move, we’ll be happy,” the popular owner says. “And we’ll make the new place very nice.”