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Store Front - A Disappearing New York 2: Sunset Park Storefront - Luigi's Pizza

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Published on Jun 21, 2012

Excerpt from "Store Front: Disappearing Face of New York," by Jim and Karla Murray.

New York City's generations-old mom and pop store, with all of its charm, tradition, color and comfort, is becoming increasingly rare. These photographs document some of the historic storefronts in the Sunset Park area.

Pictured are:
Luigi's Pizza (Fifth Ave near 21st St)
Cash & Carry Food Market (Third Ave and 51st St)
Garry Jewelers (Fifth Ave near 10th St)
Good Food (Fourth Ave and 42nd St)
Pollack's (Fifth Ave and 49th St)
Rainbow Cafe (Fifth Ave near 39th St)

Below is the story of Luigi's Pizza, in business since 1973. It is now being run by the second-generation family member, Giovanni Lanzo. For more stories and photographs of New York's storefronts, see the book Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York.

--

My father, Luigi, emigrated here from Calabria, Italy. He was a farmer but learned to cook well from his mother. He opened this pizza place in 1973 using his family recipes. He has retired now but still grows many of the fresh ingredients we use such as tomatoes and herbs at his farm in Staten Island. Yes, he actually has a farm! It's hard to believe that there is a farm anywhere in New York City but he has a small one. I think that's what makes our pizza taste so good - the fresh ingredients. Our specialty is our fresh mozzarella, which is sprinkled with our home-grown fresh herbs.

We own this whole building, thank god, and that's why we are still here today. This area between Sunset Park and Park Slope has gotten so expensive that we would never be able to afford the rent. And yeah I call it area because this neighborhood in Brooklyn really has no name so we've created the name Greenwood Heights for ourselves. Sunset Park won't include us in their holiday festivities and neither will Park Slope.

Lots of people who live here now like to say that they live in Park Slope but I grew up in this neighborhood and back in the late 70s and early 80s it wasn't so desirable. There were lots of abandoned buildings and crime was really high. As a kid, my parents wouldn't even let me walk on 7th Avenue. I remember when the City was selling whole buildings in Park Slop for $1.00. If you lived in the building and you wanted to buy it, they were actually offering it to you for a dollar. Now of course, the neighborhood has changed but it's still a big melting pot of different nationalities."

-Giovanni Lanzo, second-generation owner

To see other stories of New York's disappearing storefronts, visit:
http://www.cityofmemory.org/map/#/tou....

To learn more about City Lore, visit:
http://www.citylore.org.

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