Philadelphia is famous for its cheesesteaks, and NewYork City is famous for its cheesecake, but last week aQueens eatery and popular hangout for St. John’s studentshit the no. 1 spot for pizza, not dessert.Off of Hillside Ave. and Francis Lewis Blvd. inQueens Village sits a rather small Italian restaurant calledGaby’s Pizza.
Serving nearly 1,000 customers per day,Gaby’s Pizzeria’s top selling plain cheese pies helpedgain them recognition on the “Rachael Ray Show.” In anInternet poll, Gaby’s was voted number one out of 5,970pizzerias across New York City in New York City’s BestPizza competition.
“What we feel proud about is finally the little guy gotrecognized,” said Orlando Correale, 48, a Co-Owner ofGaby’s Pizzeria since 1986.
In Queens, Gaby’s has been a dominant force for 44years in terms of serving good old fashioned pizza, Italiandishes and sandwich hoagies. Originally founded by theLoGiudice brothers, John, Jerry and Stephen, the pizzeriawas opened with the name ‘Gaby’s Pizza’ already on thebuilding from a previous owner. It is not clear whetherthe pizzeria opened or not under the name before thebrothers took over in 1964.
The three brothers, natives of Rome, Italy, crafted aspecial recipe here in the United States. This is not to saythis recipe is solely pertaining to food; it also combinesingredients of customer service and great prices.
“For a $1.95 a slice, you can get two slices and a sodafor about five bucks; it’s perfect for a lunch,” said RachelCorcoran, 22, a first year Law student at St. John’sUniversity School of Law.Although a different generation of the LoGuidicefamily runs Gaby’s, they have always stayed true to thatunique pizza taste, even if it meant cutting profits.
Today,Jerry LoGiudice Sr., Stephen LoGiudice Jr. and OrlandoCorreale join together to run the busy establishment from10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and until 12 a.m. onweekends.
Over the years, the prices of Gaby’s pizza ingredientshave risen. The “Brankinelli” tomatoes imported fromItaly used to run $13 per case back in the early years ofGaby’s. All these years later, the tomatoes cost $20 percase. As milk prices drastically rose a few years ago,Gaby’s continued to use the same cheese as always.
“We never changed a thing,” said Correale in a candidinterview inside Gaby’s Pizza. “We’ll make lessmoney, but we’re still giving customers the same thingCorreale admitted that most customers would notknow the difference if they changed cheese or tomatoes,but the owners would notice. The loyalty they have totheir customers is also another ingredient in their success.
“We come here every Wednesday, practically twice aweek,” said Marie Slaughter, 41, a Gaby’s customer sinceshe was a little girl.
Slaughter’s daughter Antoinette is 18 months old anda third generation pizza-eater. Gaby’s Pizza even sponsoredAntoinette in a beauty pageant that she entered.
Slaughter was proud to announce that her daughter wonthe beauty pageant for her age group.Gerry Seidita, 34, a St. John’s alumna also hopes thathis three-year- old son Giuseppe will be among the nextgeneration to eat and work at Gaby’s Pizza. Seidita marriedinto the family business after graduating from St.John’s. He graduated with a Criminal Justice degree fromSJU and works nights as a NYPD officer in all of the fiveboroughs. During the day, Seidita satisfies his love forbusiness by giving a hand to Gaby’s Pizzeria.”I was always going to open my own business, and Ifell into this,” said Seidita, regarding his career plansafter marrying Jerry LoGuidice’s daughter Susan.
Seidita takes part in a business that has stayed strongfor so many years. Located inside the Fran Hill MallShopping plaza, Gaby’s has had numerous competitors.
Across the street, the Crown Fried Chicken restaurantserves pizza, but a limited amount of pies are sold perday.A few years ago, Gaby’s faced potential competitionfrom Russo’s Pizza. The pizzeria could never hold a torchto Gaby’s and shut down after operating for a little undertwo years. Various other pizzerias have come and gonearound Gaby’s Pizzeria. It’s clear that distance is noissue. Whether the competitors are across the street ornational chains like Chicago’s Pizza in Manhattan,Gaby’s still wins.
“I’m glad Gaby’s won as best pizza,” said OscarMaradiaga, 21, a Briarcliffe College student. “I live over40 blocks away and I still travel to get Gaby’s.”Last year, Gaby’s Pizza was the runner-up in radio station97.3 FM’s Best of New York Pizza competition. Withloyal customers and famous customers such as musicartists LL Cool J, Salt-n-Peppa and Run DMC, Gaby’smade a name for itself long before winning the RachelRay Show pizza contest.
Seidita advises St. John’s students in any professionto, “always think about the community and the peopleyou’re dealing with.”Gaby’s Pizzeria is proud to acknowledge that theyserve all ages and backgrounds. People originally fromthe Queens area that have since moved to Florida andNorth Carolina, for example, still eat Gaby’s.
Whether the out-of-state customers stop by Gaby’s inperson to pick up special frozen pies to go or order Gaby’sto be shipped via UPS, they still receive that original,homemade, good old-fashioned pizza.”We might go up like a nickel or dime in pizza price,but it never goes up to increase profits,” Correale said.
“Gaby’s is what you might want to call a true New Yorker – we’ve got everything.”