Staying true to the recipe: Gaby's Pizza
Philadelphia is famous for its cheesesteaks, and New York City is famous for its cheesecake, but last week a Queens eatery hit the number one spot for pizza not dessert.
Off of Hillside Ave. and Francis Lewis Blvd. in Queens Village sits a rather small Italian restaurant called Gaby's Pizza. Serving nearly 1,000 customers per day, Gab'™s Pizzeria'™s top selling plain cheese pies helped gain them recognition on the Rachel Ray Television Show.
On an internet poll, Gaby's was voted number one out of 5,970 pizzerias across New York City in New York City's Best Pizza competition.
"What we feel proud about is finally the little guy got recognized," said Orlando Correale, 48, a Co-Owner of Gaby's Pizzeria since 1986.
In Queens, Gaby's has been a dominant force for 44 years in terms of serving good old fashioned pizza, Italian dishes and sandwich hoagies. Originally founded by the LoGiudice brothers- John, Jerry and Stephen opened the pizzeria with the name Gaby's Pizza already on the building from a previous owner. It is not clear whether the pizzeria opened or not under the name Gaby's Pizza before the brothers took over in 1964. The native brothers from Rome, Italy, crafted a special recipe here in the United States. It's not to say this recipe is solely edible, it also combines ingredients of customer service and great prices.
"For a $1.95 a slice, you can get two slices and a soda for about five bucks; it's perfect for a lunch," said Rachel Corcoran, 22, a first year Law student at St. John's University School of Law.
Although a different generation of LoGuidice runs Gaby's, they have always stayed true to that unique pizza taste even if it meant cutting profits. Today, Jerry LoGiudice Sr., Stephen LoGiudice Jr. and Orlando Correale join together to run the busy establishment from 10A.M. to 11 P.M. on weekdays and until 12 A.M. on weekends.
Over the years, the prices of Gaby's pizza ingredients have risen. The "Brankinelli" tomatoes imported from Italy used to run $13 per case back in the early years of Gaby's. All these years later, the tomatoes cost $20 per case. 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 candid interview inside Gaby's Pizza.
"We'll make less money, but we're still giving customers the same thing."
Correale admitted that most customers would not know the difference if they changed cheese or tomatoes, however, the owners would notice. The loyalty they have to their customers is also another ingredient of their success.
"We come here every Wednesday, practically twice a week," said Marie Slaughter, 41, a Gaby's customer since she was a little girl. Slaughter's daughter Antoinette is 18 months old and a third generation pizza-eater. Antoinette was sponsored by Gaby's Pizza in a beauty pageant that she entered. Slaughter was proud to announce that her daughter won the beauty pageant for her age group.
Gerry Seidita, 34, a St. John's University alumnus also hopes that his three-year- old son Giuseppe will be among the next generation to eat and work at Gaby's Pizza. Seidita married into the family business after graduating from St. John's. He graduated with a Criminal Justice degree from SJU and works nights as a New York City Police Officer in all of the five boroughs. During the day, Seidita fills his love for business by giving a hand to Gaby's Pizzeria.
"I was always going to open my own business, and I fell into this," said Seidita after marrying Jerry LoGuidice's daughter Susan. Seidita takes part in a business that has stayed strong for so many years. Located inside the Fran Hill Mall Shopping plaza, Gaby's has had numerous competitors. Across the street, the Crown Fried Chicken restaurant serves pizza, but a limited amount of pies are sold per day.
A few years ago, Gaby's faced competition from Russo's Pizza. The pizzeria could never hold a torch to Gaby's and shut down after operating for a little under two years. Various other pizzerias have come and gone around Gaby's Pizzeria. It's clear that distance is no issue. Whether the competitors are across the street or national chains like Chicago's Pizza in Manhattan, Gaby's still wins.
"I'm glad Gaby's won as best pizza," said Oscar Maradiaga 21, a Briarcliffe College student. "I live over 40 blocks away and I still travel to get Gaby's." Last year, Gaby's Pizza was the runner-up in radio station 97.3 FM's Best of New York Pizza competition.
With loyal customers and famous customers such as music artists LL Cool J, Salt-n-Peppa and Run DMC, Gaby's made a name for itself long before winning the Rachel Ray Show pizza contest.
Seidita advises St. John's students in any profession to "always think about the community and the people you're dealing with." Gaby's Pizzeria is proud to acknowledge that they serve all ages and backgrounds. People that have since moved to Florida and North Carolina, for example, from the Queens area still eat Gaby's. Whether the out-of-state customers stop by Gaby's in person to pick up special frozen pies to go or order Gaby's to be drop 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," said Correale. "Gaby's is what you might want to call a true New Yorker- we've got everything."