Tag Archives: Westport Pizzeria

Pics Of The Day #998

David Squires had his last-ever Westport Pizzeria slice(s) today. After 51 years, the beloved restaurant closes tomorrow.

Soon, this was all that was left. But, David says, “After I took the photo, I ate the crumbs. RIP: Rest in Pizza.” (Photos/David Squires)

 

Pics Of The Day #991

As Westport Pizzeria’s days dwindle, local politicians — and News 12 — gathered to honor the legendary restaurant. Among them (from left): 2nd Selectman Jen Tooker, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (in a Pizzeria 50th anniversary shirt), owner Mel Mioli, state legislators Tony Hwang and Gail Lavielle, and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell.

The very familiar menu (Photos/Dave Wilson)

Last Slice For Westport Pizzeria

Westport Pizzeria served its first slice in the 1960s. It will serve its last in the 2020s.

The restaurant — after Gold’s, the longest-running food-serving establishment in Westport — will not make it much into the new decade. however. The iconic pizza place is closing January 11.

The news — first reported on WestportNow — stunned Westporters. “The pizzeria” — that was all you needed to call it — was a fixture on Main Street from Columbus Day, 1968 to February 2014. Owner Mel Mioli moved to his current location around the corner on the Post Road, across from Design Within Reach, when his lease was not renewed.

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

Mioli — who founded the business with his brother Joe — figures that after 51 years of making pizzas (and memories), this is a good time to retire. Joe left the business in 2004, and served 3 terms as state representative.

Many other Miolis have worked at Westport Pizzeria. But none — including his 2 sons — wanted to carry on the tradition.

And what a tradition it was. The pizza was not gourmet — but it was great. The decor was simple — but it was fine. What counted was the food, the consistency, and the folks behind the counter.

Plus the memories. Thanks for all of them, from all of Westport, to all the Miolis.

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


In October 2018, Westport Pizzeria celebrated its 50th anniversary. Here’s how “06880” covered that story.

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 staff 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.

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.

A familiar sight.

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.

Westport Pizzeria, on the Post Road. The “For Rent” sign was for the apartment above.

Prime Real Estate Listing Offers A Piece Of The Pie

The commercial real estate listing sent shock waves through Westport.

“Exceptional 2,516 square foot downtown property now available for sale!” it read. “New to market, for sale at only $1,425,000.

“Significant potential for many other retail oriented uses. Long-term first floor commercial tenant and second floor, income-producing apartment. Call to inquire now before it’s too late!”

The address is 143 Post Road East.

But you know it better as Westport Pizzeria.

143 Post Road East, Westport.

The beloved institution — which celebrated its 50th anniversary last October — moved from Main Street to the former S&M/Joe’s Pizza location in 2014.

Founder and owner Mel Mioli had bought the Post Road location a couple of years earlier. It was a fortuitous hedge against a non-renewal notice from his Main Street landlord.

But don’t worry.

Mioli says he’s just testing the market. And even if he sells, he’s keeping the pizzeria.

Grazie!

(Interested in the property? Call Tommy Febbraio at 203-247-3516, or email Tommy@CBCFG.com. Hat tip: Sal Liccione.)

“Scrappy” Says: The Military Needs Westporters. And Westporters Need The Military.

As graduation looms, Staples High School seniors have one foot in the only life they’ve ever known. The other edges tentatively into the unknown.

Most, however, head in the same direction: college. A few will take a gap year, or go to work. An even smaller number march toward a very un-Westport-like destination: the military.

One Staples grad wishes more would consider the armed forces.

“Scrappy” — his nickname, because he’s “a small dog who loves to fight” — graduated in 2004. He’s not using his real name, because of the sensitive nature of his work.

He thinks only 3 others from his class joined the military: one entered a military academy; one enlisted right after high school, another after college.

Scrappy took the path of “every Fairfield County kid”: he went to college, then worked at a hedge fund.

“It was the most miserable period of my life,” he says.

He searched for something more fulfilling. Air Force Special Operations fit the bill.

He trained for nearly 2 years. His first time back in Westport — after spending 10 months in 4 different states — he realized it was “different” than the rest of the country. His eyes had been open wide.

Yet Scrappy did not realize how different until another visit. He’d been in Libya — not far from Muammar Gaddafi when he was killed — and now sat at the Black Duck bar, with a friend.

They’d shaved their war beards. They looked not unlike the 2 guys sitting nearby, wearing polo shirts with the Bridgewater logo.

“They were talking about how hard their day was,” Scrappy says. “They’d had to endure 4 meetings!”

Years later, he still shakes his head at that image.

“They were able-bodied 25-year-olds. They could have done a lot more to save the world than short the price of copper.”

Scrappy feels he is doing his part. He’s been deployed 6 times — to Afghanistan, the Middle East, all over Africa. Much of his work has been in the intelligence community.

Everywhere, he meets someone from Fairfield County. They’re always surprised at which town he’s from. Very few Staples graduates do what he does.

Their unfamiliarity with the military shows when they ask things like, “Did you kill someone?” (“I’ve been trained to do heinous things,” he admits.)

Air Force Special Operations members serve in hot spots around the world.

They also assume he has PTSD. “That comes straight from the media,” Scrappy says. “But it’s like arguing with a 4-year-old. They can’t believe I’m fine.”

Westport’s disengagement from the military — and what the military does — hit Scrappy hard when he was with some old friends at a restaurant here. They had no idea our troops are still fighting — and dying — in Afghanistan.

“There’s no military base anywhere near here,” Scrappy notes. “Our taxes haven’t risen to fund war. Westport is a worldly town. But unless you know someone who serves, this is a part of American life that people here just don’t think about.”

Scrappy remembers that a previous Staples principal “hated” the military. She banned recruiters from campus, and discouraged students from applying to the service academies.

He believes the military needs members from this area. “Fifteen years from now, there won’t be enough people to fill our ranks. Between obesity, ADHD and drugs, there’s going to be a shortage of able bodies.”

Scrappy calls Fairfield County “a great breeding ground for the military. People here are healthy, intelligent and worldly.” Most members of Special Ops and the intelligence community have college degrees, he notes.

The intelligence community needs intelligent people.

His service has not been easy. Scrappy broke his back. He endured 13 surgeries. He’s deaf in one ear.

The last 10 years have been “the worst experience of my life — and the greatest.” He married a team member — a doctor he met on active duty in England. His combat search and rescue team saved over 120 lives. Their motto — “That Others May Live” — is ingrained in all that he does.

He’s helped rescue Americans — and Taliban and Al Qaeda members. “We try to kill them. But if they’re injured, we try to save them. We need to get intelligence from them too.”

Scrappy has traveled all over the world. He’s seen places few Americans ever go to. He has met “the coolest, greatest, most resilient” people in Somalia and Kenya. “Experiences like those change you dramatically.”

The military has taught him “stress inoculation.” He has learned how to keep his head in the most dangerous situations, engineer a solution, and push on.

“That’s the most valuable tool anyone can have,” Scrappy says. “It goes far beyond how to strip a weapon or jump out of a plane.”

Scrappy says that after being in a dozen firefights — and stabbed in close combat — he was scared only once.

It happened here. He went to Westport Pizzeria — and found it was gone.

Panicked, he called his mother. To his relief she told him it’s still here, around the corner on the Post Road.

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.

Restaurant Churn? Not These!

A recent “06880” photo of the Compo Beach palm tree got an alert — and hungry — reader thinking about lobster rolls.

That reminded her of clam chowder, which made her think of Westfair Fish & Chips. She’s been a fan ever since she was a student at Staples High School, back in the mid-1980s.

The small, unassuming takeout-or-eat-in spot behind the strip mall opposite Stop & Shop has been a Westport favorite for over 30 years. And that got the “06880” reader wondering about other restaurants that have stood the test of time.

Three decades is a great achievement for many things: a career, a marriage. But it’s particularly remarkable in the constant churn that is Westport’s restaurant scene.

She and I came up with a list of places we think have been here for at least 3 decades. They include:

Gold’s. The anchor of Compo Shopping Center since it opened in the late 1950s, and the anchor 6 decades later for anyone who loves a quintessential deli.

Viva Zapata. Probably the oldest continually operating restaurant in town, especially when you consider its predecessor, at the entrance to what is now Playhouse Square.

Westport Pizzeria. Opened in 1968 on Main Street, where it stood proud and unchanging for over 45 years, “Westport Pizza” moved around the corner to the Post Road in 2014. Its special recipe thankfully remains the same.

The Black Duck. A star turn on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” has not changed this waterfront favorite one bit.

(Photo/Chou Chou Merrill)

Dunville’s. Around the corner from the Duck on Saugatuck Avenue, another down-home place that’s the same now as when its present owners grew up here.

Sherwood Diner. Or, simply, “the diner.” It’s no longer open 24/7, but is still the go-to spot for Staples High School seniors, senior citizens, every other human being in Westport, and anyone wandering in off nearby I-95.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Sakura. As steady as she goes. It — and the gorgeous cherry blossom tree outside, which gives the restaurant its name — has been a fixture opposite McDonald’s since the fast-food franchise was Roy Rogers. And before that, Big Top.

Fortuna’s. With limited seating, this is not really a restaurant. But stop quibbling. Its winning formula has filled the stomach of Staples students, Post Road workers and everyone else since the Ford administration.

Coffee An‘. If it’s good enough for Bill Clinton, it’s good enough for the rest of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a president or a peon. The donuts are the same — unbelievable — for all.

Little Kitchen. When it opened on Main Street, it really was a “little kitchen.” Now it’s bigger, and the granddaddy of all Asian fusion places in town.

Da Pietro’s. One of Westport’s best — and smallest — restaurants, earning praise and love since 1987.

(Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Tavern on Main. This cozy 2nd-floor Main Street spot has not been here as long as its predecessor, Chez Pierre — but it’s getting close.

I couldn’t find out for sure when a few other long-lived (though probably less than 3 decades) restaurants opened. But these too have stood the test of time: Tengda. Tarantino’s. Finalmente. Via Sforza. Planet Pizza. Tutti’s. Positano’s (at 2 different locations).

Special mention goes to 2 fantastic delis that offer a wide variety of hot and cold food, and serve as community centers: Elvira’s  and Christie’s Country Store. 

Plus, of course, Joey’s by the Shore. It’s not a restaurant or a deli. But the beach concession occupies its own special. much-loved niche. And if it hasn’t been here for 30 years, it’s at least 29.

Finally, 2 other downtown delis have been around for decades. They’ve changed names, and — particularly with one — substantially updated the interior.

But Rye Ridge (formerly Oscar’s) and Winfield Street Coffee (previously Art’s, and definitely not on Winfield Street but right over the bridge) keep doing what their predecessors have done.

And what every other place in this story does: provide excellent food and continuity to generations of Westporters.

(Have I missed any longtime restaurants or delis? Click “Comments” — and my apologies!)

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.)

And The Pizza Winners Are…

Over 1,700 pizza lovers cast votes during last month’s Great Westport Pizza Contest.

Sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, 14 restaurants competed in 7 categories.

When the votes were tallied, you chose:

  • Best slice: Westport Pizzeria
  • Best plain pizza: Westport Pizzeria
  • Best meat pizza: Joe’s Pizza
  • Best gluten-free pizza:  Joe’s Pizza
  • Best veggie pizza: Tutti’s Ristorante
  • Best delivered pizza:  Jordan’s Restaurant
  • Best personal pizza: Rizzuto’s Restaurant and Toscano Pizzeria (tie)
  • Honorable mention:  Romanacci Pizza Bar and Planet Pizza lost by only 2 votes in the “Best personal pizza” and “Best delivered pizza” categories, respectively.

Mel Mioli’s Westport Pizzeria may have moved to the Post Road, after 45 years on Main Street. But it’s still a Westport favorite.

The victors did not get any dough — just the satisfaction of coming out on top (and free publicity).

Any way you slice it, the Great Westport Pizza Contest was a winner.

March was Westport Pizza Month. That’s not just an idea — it was an official proclamation from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (2nd from left). Joining him were (from left) Westport Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell; Ira Bloom of event sponsors Bercham Moses, and Joe Canicatti, owner of double winner Joe’s Pizza.

 

Friday Flashback #53

In 1979 2009 — as her 30th Staples High School reunion neared — Peggy Lehn made this collage:

Now — 8 years later — she dug it out of her garage, and sent it along.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. If you were in Westport then: How many of these places and things do you remember? Westport Pizzeria and Liberty Army Navy seem to be the only 2 stores still around.

If you were not here: What are you most curious about? I’m guessing the Minnybuses — and the bizarrely named S&M Pizza. (Trust me, nothing crazy went on there.)

Click “Comments” below to share memories — or ask questions.