Yet in the midst of all this madness, one thing remains steady and constant: you can always get a great meal from Sal’s Pizza, which has operated on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven for nearly 60 years.
“It’s a struggle, but we’re holding our own,” says Dominick Brienza, who has owned and operated Sal’s for the past 15 years. “We’re doing pretty good with takeout and delivery, but we’ve lost almost all the foot traffic from all the shoppers visiting the other stores and from all the students from the schools.”
But Dominick and his staff all live nearby and have made it a mission to come in and do what they do best.
“Our customers are our friends, so you feel a sense of responsibility to stay open if you can,” he says.
“We are so grateful to those essential businesses, like Sal’s Pizza, that have managed to stay open and provide necessary services to our community,” said Raquel Olivares, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District.
Brienza has been around Jamaica Avenue nearly his whole life, moving to Woodhaven from Brooklyn when he was nine years old.
He went to St. Thomas the Apostle and PS 97, and as a young man he worked as a busboy at Le Cordon Bleu.
Dominick went to Edison High School and then City College, where he studied to be an engineer.
“There was too much math,” he says. “I’m more of a hands-on kind of guy.”
So he switched to education with plans of becoming a teacher, but his timing was bad. It was the 1970s, and New York City was bankrupt and not hiring any more teachers, so Dominick Brienza took a different path.
He purchased and operated “Dom’s Deli” near the corner of 90th Street and Jamaica Avenue and was a fixture in Woodhaven for nearly 19 years.
The deli itself was old and needed a complete overhaul, so Dominic gutted it and instead of a new deli he opened a laundromat, which he ran for the next ten years.
After the laundromat, Brienza was able to put his education degree to use as a social worker for Catholic Charities, specializing in criminal victim assistance for seniors, an experience he found very rewarding.
And that brings him to Sal’s, giving Brienza nearly 45 years operating three different businesses in Woodhaven.
During this quarantine, Sal’s has stayed open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week, and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They offer in-store pickup or delivery to your home.
“Sometimes when people order, if they order through an app, they have requested no-contact delivery,” Brienza explained. “We just call them when we get there and leave it on their stoop.”
They even offer curbside pickup. You can pull up in front and the team at Sal’s will walk your order out to you.
Eddie Gardiner, a regular of Sal’s, walks from one side of Woodhaven to the other to get a pie.
“It was Lent and I always go to Sal’s, he's one of the oldest pizzerias around,” he said. “It’s hard to find a good, reliable spot like Sal’s.”
Residents of Woodhaven take pride in their pizza. Growing up, I don’t think I ever tasted anything better than a corner slice of a Sicilian pie from Carlo’s Pizza. And as a kid I loved getting a hot slice from Ben’s Pizza.
Sal’s Pizza is cut from that good, reliable mold Eddie Gardiner is talking about.
“Pizza like it used to be in the old days,” he says.
In this quarantined world we need to plan our meals ahead. It’s always good to know we still have a reliable option in Sal’s Pizza. Thank you to Sal’s and to all the other businesses in Woodhaven who are staying open and serving our community.