Luigi Mondi, the namesake of Luigi’s Main Street Pizza, is back at the pizzeria in Eastport, but Luigi’s now has a new name: Piesano’s.
Luigi’s shuttered last year not long after Mr. Mondi sold the business in July. The new owners kept the business going for just two months, Mr. Mondi explained in a recent interview. Because he still owned the building, he decided to reopen the pizzeria himself.
After offering catering for the holidays while ramping back up, Piesano’s officially opened on January 5.
Mr. Mondi said he changed the name for two reasons: He had already closed his corporation that was under the name Luigi’s, and his new 35-seat pizzeria and restaurant that he opened on Shelter Island in July is also named Piesano’s.
Having two locations now, his original plan to work less has been thrown for a loop.
Originally from Shirley, Mr. Mondi, 52, moved to Eastport 12 years ago. He retired in 2010 from the Long Island Rail Road, where he worked various jobs for 26 years, but he always had a side hustle, he said. Having had previous experience working in pizzerias, he bought his first pizza place in 1987, Village Pizza, a 16-seat restaurant on Main Street in Riverhead.
It was from the original owner of Village Pizza that he got the pizza sauce recipe that he still uses today. He explained that to make good pizza, the sauce can’t simply be poured out onto the dough and cooked in the pizza oven—the sauce has to be cooked before it goes on the pie. Even between owning pizzerias, “I kept that recipe in my wallet under lock and key,” he said.
Mr. Mondi had other pizzerias under different names in Smithtown and Moriches and eventually opened Luigi’s in Eastport the same year he retired. “I wanted a little something to keep me busy, and it turned into a monster,” he said.
Wanting to dial back how much he was working, he looked for a location where business would be more seasonal than it is in Eastport. He said he looked into Westhampton, but the rent was $9,000 a month. He found a better deal on North Ferry Road on Shelter Island and opened Piesano’s, which he said also offered him the opportunity to run a sit-down restaurant rather than a purely takeout business.
During the offseason, the Shelter Island location will be open one or two days a week, allowing him to concentrate on Eastport for the next four to five months, he said. Then, in the summer, his daughter, Savannah Mondi, 21, will run things in Eastport.
Mr. Mondi said his daughter wanted nothing to do with working in the pizzeria when she moved to the area in 2014—which she confirmed. But she came around. “Now, I’m the backbone,” Ms. Mondi said.
The space has been refreshed a bit, including a chalk-paint wall with the menu written out in Ms. Mondi’s hand. As a nod to Mr. Mondi’s former career, an LIRR emblem is hung on a faux brick wall.
While making pies for the Friday evening rush, Mr. Mondi said Fridays and Saturdays are the most popular days for pizza, and he wants to build the business back up to what it was—serving 200 pies on a Friday night. Because Piesano’s has no seating and serves no alcohol, he knows that success depends on the food, he said: “I need to have a good product.”
He noted that Luigi’s business was only 50 percent pizza, and the other half was dinners, such as his popular chicken Francaise.
“It’s good to be back,” Mr. Mondi said, adding that it’s almost a blessing that his original plan did not work out. He said he’s now on a five- or six-year plan.
So, Piesano’s is more than just a temporary pop-up.
Piesano’s is located at 491 Montauk Highway, Eastport. The new phone number is 631-325-1184.
This article first appeared in The Southampton Press.