At 41 years old, a family man named Joseph Romano, who was born and raised in Bensonhurst and lives in Staten Island, opened Rosalia’s Pizzeria.
“I began getting involved in the restaurant industry at age 17 by selling fruits and vegetables to restaurants, pizzerias, catering halls, and institutions, which I continue to service today,” he explained. “I love the restaurant industry very much, so I opened a sandwich shop in Bay Ridge 10 years ago, and after two years, I decided to sell it and open pizzerias in New York City.”
After spotting a vacant storefront, he recognized the potential of transforming it into something unique.
“I came to Forest Hills since I want to give the people a taste of a real Italian kitchen with recipes that came from my family for generations,” he said.
A family’s commitment is evident in many ways. His mother Rosa, who descended from Sicily, can be found in the kitchen four days per week, preparing sauce and meatballs among other foods for the chef. Ninety percent of the products are considered Italian.
He said, “We pick up sausages and veal from an Italian butcher shop in Brooklyn that has been around since 1962, and we purchase it every three days fresh.”
Romano’s focus is on quality and the personal touch. “We use real mushrooms on our pizza, and not those that are canned.”
The same holds true for the variety of sauces, meatballs, and the pizza dough. “As for our espresso, my little brother Giovanni roasts it from fresh beans,” he added. Romano estimates selling thousands of slices of pizza each week. His personal favorite food is meatballs, which he said, “We sell a ton of them.”
A story lies behind the name, “Rosalia’s Pizzeria.” As a father of twin daughters, Rosalia and Valentina, he decided to celebrate their life in his businesses, and another pizzeria, Valentina’s, is slated to open in the fall in Brooklyn. In addition, he owns Luzzo’s Pizza in Gansevoort Market and is the co-owner of Luzzo’s Pizza in the East Village, which was voted the “best pizza in NYC” in 2014 by Eater New York. Although he is busy greeting his clientele while preparing a wide range of pizzas, he does not sacrifice family time. “When I'm not at my restaurants, I am spending time with my daughters,” he said.
The ambiance consists of classic style wooden benches, high ceilings, sconces, and faux finished brown walls with family portraits, Italian works of art, and colorful drawings by a local artist. The display will soon feature Forest Hills memorabilia, which will reflect Romano’s interest in local history.
“My restaurant is a home that’s comfortable and offers a twist of vintage,” he said.
Patrons can relax as they dine by watching television or hearing nearly every style of music from Sinatra to Selena to top 40.
Romano holds expectations for Rosalia’s Pizzeria to represent more than a typical pizzeria, and he is open to feedback on community partnerships. In the coming weeks, a special event will be announced.
“We are hoping to become involved in the community by participating in events and fundraisers,” Romano said. “A mom and pop shop such as ours is beneficial, since we are unlike large chains that have no soul.”