When Sal Scavo left his hometown of Carini in western Sicily as a young man in his mid-twenties, he had visions of the American dream firmly planted in his head, and part of it was fulfilled when he met and married Theresa in New York.
Being of Italian heritage, he knew what good food was all about, and even as his young family grew, first with the birth of Dominic, then Thomas, followed by Marianna and Alex, he had the idea that he would open a restaurant featuring the flavors of his native Sicily.
He was well-trained by his cousins in Brooklyn, who knew the secrets of making the most delicious pizza and special dishes from their Sicilian heritage. Sal’s young family made him realize that he wanted to raise them outside the hustle-bustle of the city, and so he moved to central New Jersey.
At the time, East Windsor was growing, and there was a brand new shopping strip going up along the southern side of Route 130. His wife wanted to be close enough to Brooklyn to visit family there regularly, and Sal decided that East Windsor was the perfect place to raise a family and start a business. And so it was here, in 1970, that he established .
People came from miles around to eat the delicious food he prepared, and Sal’s Pizza became a cherished part of the neighborhood.
Sal himself passed away three years ago, but the family business is still thriving, headed by his youngest child, Alex, who carried on the culinary traditions established by his father decades ago. His siblings still help out, and the family pride and love are evident in the convivial mood and atmosphere that permeate the eatery as much as the delicious smells. On this day, lunchtime is especially busy, and big brother Dominic, who had poked his head in to say hello, jumps in to help. Sister Marianna also stops in to say hi.
“We still only use the finest quality and fresh ingredients for everything we make here,” Alex Scavo said. “We have a rule that if it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and so we haven’t changed the recipes from when my dad was running the restaurant.”
He says the dough is made fresh every day and the dinner sauce takes five to six hours to make by hand, carefully and painstakingly in the old world way—no shortcuts allowed.
Scavo points proudly to photos that line the walls of Sal’s Pizza. His father is there, a handsome, dark-haired young man spinning pizza dough in the air. There is a collage of pictures featuring highlights and special moments over the last four decades and included is a picture of Alex himself at 12 years old, helping out in the restaurant.
“My father taught us the business and he always said if you want to do it, that’s fine but he never pressured us to keep it up,” said Scavo, who now has two sons of his own. Sal, named for his dad, is 17, and Anthony is 15. “They may carry on the tradition but it’s still early and I want them to choose what they want to do.”
The menu has all of the traditional Italian favorites – calzones, stromboli, hoagies, steak sandwiches and salads. There is a party menu for larger crowds and a jumbo party pizza that serves up to 15 people. But it is the pizza that draws people from miles around, even those who have moved away still come in when they’re in town to get a slice of Sal’s finest. One of Scavo’s best sellers is Brooklyn style pizza. “They used to call it grandma style pizza way back when, but everything old is new again and it is one of our most popular pizzas,” he said.
He says he is proud to carry on the family tradition.
“People have to eat and we have to make a living. We have stayed in business all these years because we keep the menu simple and make sure the food is the best and keep people happy. It’s a good recipe.”