MIDLAND BEACH, Staten Island (PIX11) — Since Nunzio’s, a beloved Staten Island pizzeria, announced its closing, mayhem has descended on the Midland Beach landmark.
The dining room is packed daily. The lines are forming outside before the 11 a.m. opening. People are ordering five, 10, or 20 pies at a time. Others are driving six hours to get their last slice.
The craziness doesn’t end there. A nostalgic customer helped herself to a framed picture off the wall and one man even asked to take home a pot from the kitchen.
“No, I didn’t give him the pot. I gave him a couple of pies,” owner Bob Whiteaker said with a jolly laugh during a PIX11 News interview at the eatery Thursday. “It’s been chaos.”
After 80 years, Nunzio’s will serve its last slice on Friday. Whiteaker, 64, is retiring after working in the long-running family business since he was 9. The parlor will close when the dough runs out, he said.
“We’ll stay open as long as we got the product,” said Whiteaker, who was born and raised in Staten Island. “I’m going to miss it, the customers and the people.”
The pizzeria opened in 1942 and moved to the Midland Beach location in 1960. The restaurant was named after Whiteaker’s grandfather’s best friend. When his grandpa bought the business, he kept the name.
Whiteaker started out in the kitchen making the dough by hand and cutting cheese. And it’s been in his blood ever since. He and his mom took over the pizzeria in 1982. Whiteaker said he has never eaten a slice at any of the other borough’s famous pizzerias.
“I married Nunzio’s. I’m here all the time,” he said.
Longtime customer Ben D’Amato was waiting to buy two pies on Thursday so he could freeze them for his daughter, who is on vacation.
“All good things come to an end,” he said. “It’s consistently good. My dad used to bring me here when I was a kid.”
The building will now house a cabinet business. But everything in the pizzeria, including furniture and kitchen equipment, will be auctioned off, Whiteaker said. He hopes to keep all the black-and-white photos hanging on the wall and the bright neon sign in the store’s dining room.
And he’s not completely closing the door on the pizza business.
“Maybe I’ll open a small spot in New Jersey,” Whiteaker said.