Mesa pizzeria’s customers part of the owners’ family The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa pizzeria’s customers part of the owners’ family

December 12th, 2020 Mesa Tribune Staff
Mesa pizzeria’s customers part of the owners’ family

By Sierra Alvarez
Tribune Contributor

As it struggles through the pandemic, La Famiglia Pizza N Pasta in Mesa is relying on loyal customers to stay afloat.

Owner Girolamo Randazzo said his business is “run by family” and those customers in many ways are an extension of that family.

Some have been maintaining a weekly dinner visit that they’ve maintained for 20 years.

And they readily explain their loyalty

“We supported them. We know they’re a family-run business and we wanted to show our support,” Peter Steingraber said.

“They make you feel like family,” said Joseph Debratto. “We’ve been coming here for 20 years and it feels like family. The food is good and the friends are all good.”

Added Annette Danzo: “We fit right in. We’ve been through everything with them and we love them. They truly are family.”

The Randazzo family came from Palermo, Sicily, to Brooklyn, New York in 1978.

Eventually, the family relocated to Arizona in 1998 and opened up their La Famiglia in 2001 in Chandler before relocating to 1859 W. Guadalupe Road, near Dobson Road.

Many of their most loyal customers are native New Yorkers themselves who happened to stumble upon the pizzeria.

“It’s like we belong here and it’s not just for the food, even though the food is terrific, it’s the family, the waiters, the waitresses,” Danzo said. “It’s a great feeling, and that’s how it was back home in New York and you don’t get that home feeling here in Arizona.”

Steingraber noted, “We found it and we love pizza and we’re ex-New Yorkers looking for New York-style pizza. We know the family through coming here and we’ve even had our son’s engagement party here.”

Betty Debratto called La Famiglia “one of the only places where the pizza is to our liking.

“It’s authentic New York style pizza,” she added. “I’d say it’s even as good as Italy.”

The Randazzos are following CDC guidelines to make sure their family and all their customers are safe.

“We’re very, very cautious as to where we go and we feel very comfortable here with all the precautions they take,” Steingraber said. “It’s one of the two places we visit on a regular basis since COVID came to the U.S. back in March. We want to support a family run business that’s always been nice to us.”

Aside from having to wear their masks, Danzo said nothing has really changed and they are still getting treated well.

“An average customer should expect good food, good service and a friendly atmosphere,” Joseph Debratto said.

Still, because of the pandemic, the Randazzos are barely breaking even, making enough to cover the bills and taxes and pay for other necessities.

“It’s not a moneymaker,” Randazzo said. “It’s not a gold mine, it’s just working by yourself, self-employed.”

Even though times are hard right now, the Randazzos stick to their traditions and continue to donate to the community.

Every Sept. 11, they donate food to the local fire departments, police stations and homeless stations around Mesa.

They also donate to the homeless every year for Thanksgiving with food to feed around 150-200 people.

“These are traditions I have,” Girolamo said. “I don’t stop. Even though things are bad, I’m gonna keep doing it.”

He still gives discounts to first responders and tries to offer specials for the entire community.

“We’re all in the same boat,” said Girolamo’s wife Vinceza. “Everyone is struggling financially, so we’re just trying to help people get discounts and come in and help us.”

Girolamo said that his family is always grateful for the community’s continuing support.

But he also looks with sadness at the restaurant’s big party room that was often filled with people before the pandemic began.

“It’s not making nothing, it’s empty every day.” Girolamo said. “This year, starting in March, I lost everything in this room.”

The Randazzos hosted meetings, parties, baby showers and weddings in the room.

“I feel bad. His whole business operation is in bad shape but he’s hanging in there,” Joseph Debratto said.

But Vinceza said, “Personally, we’re strong in our beliefs but financially it’s hurt us a lot, as it has everyone else. That’s how I encourage [Girolamo] – that we’re not alone in this sinking boat and hopefully it doesn’t sink all the way.”

The Randazzos try to remain optimistic about the future.

“If we stay like this, I’ll survive but if it’s gonna go down more. Nobody knows how bad it’s gonna look later on, we won’t know what we’re gonna expect,” said Girolamo.

“Support local businesses, there’s a lot of restaurants like mine so support them,” Girolamo added. “We don’t want to go away.”

Their loyal customers don’t need that pep talk.

As Betty Debratto said, “we’ll be coming here till they put me 6 feet under.”


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