May 29—Salvatore Rubino throws a mound of fresh dough on a table in the morning at his pizza shop and begins cutting it into measured chunks.
He tosses each one on a scale before he sets it aside, but every ball of dough is invariably the perfect weight without his trying. He's been doing this for nearly 30 years.
The past year, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, was especially trying for Salvatore's Pizza as prices of pizza ingredients skyrocketed, he said. But he said that he's kept his prices low for his customers.
"If I can make 50 cents for a slice, then I am happy," he said. "I don't want to get rich. I just want to live a life like anybody else."
Rubino runs the pizza shop with his wife, Rosetta Randisi. They've known each other since they were children growing up in Sicily.
Rubino moved to the United States and opened his first Salvatore's Pizza location in 1992. He married Randisi 10 years ago, when she moved to the United States.
"I'm happy to be here in the USA," she said. "There's a lot more freedom here during the pandemic than in Italy."
'Keep it this way'
Salvatore's Pizza, a takeout restaurant at 645 Lamberd Ave., was open through the pandemic. Business came in spurts, but when takeout was people's only option, Rubino couldn't keep up with demand.
He installed a second oven to increase production. But with prices of ingredients rising and his commitment to keeping prices low, he had to limit his purchases of product including cheese, and it was difficult financially, he said.
"Customers said we should raise the price," he said. "I said, 'No. We keep it this way.' "
Now the prices of ingredients are beginning to stabilize, he said.
"We made it through," he said. "But we are not out of the woods yet. COVID could come back again."
Regardless of what comes, Rubino, 62, will be there. He has no plans to retire, he said.
He knows what his loyal customers want to order as soon as they walk in.
"We go there a couple times a week," said Bernie Thomas, service manager of Mac's Service & Tire, just down the road from Salvatore's. "He's treated the community very good."