The Bronx is known for its Latino culture in the southern parts and its West Indian culture in the most northern parts. Right smack in the center is Pugsley, a family owned pizza shop located in the heart of the Bronx, Fordham Road. In 1967, twenty-three year old Salvatore Natale migrated from Sicily to America with the hopes of becoming a big time Saxophone player. Fulfilling his dreams, Sal joined a band and traveled the country making music, money, and meeting women. Although, he was living his lifelong dream, there was still a void. He longed for a family; he wanted to be a father someday. The fast life no longer fazed him. Sal eventually returned to Sicily to marry the woman of his dreams, Pina.
After asking for her hand in marriage twice, Sal succeeded and settled back in New York City to start his new life. No longer a professional musician, Sal realized he wanted to own his own business and create his own schedule. He sought advice from a former band member who suggested opening a pizza shop. Originally opened on Pugsley Avenue in the early eighties, Pugsley began as a chain restaurant but there was still competition, Sal did not want to be "any ole pizza shop," he wanted variety, substance, and to stand out.
In 1985, he bought what would be "the home of Pugsley," a junk yard nestled on the corner of east 191st street, directly across from Fordham University. Almost easy to miss, an old junk yard was transformed into a hub for students, families, and Bronx residents who resided in the neighborhood. If you're searching for this restaurant on the main roads of Fordham, you probably won't find it. Word of mouth, loyal students, and familiarity is how they build their customer base and how we learn of gems such as this one. "The reason Pugsley is special is because it's a reflection of you guys," says Sal.
Upon entering Pugsley, you will be welcomed by a warm and friendly staff, let's not forget this is family owned so most likely you will meet Peter, his eldest son or Laura, his lovely wife - who Sal unashamedly gushes about every chance he gets. Do not expect to stop by for just a slice. When you do stop by, expect to be in for a wild ride.
And this is true; every inch of Pugsley is covered in meaningful art from the handwritten graffiti notes on the wall to the cafeteria like booths separated by the four seasons and Polaroid pictures of students, residents, and local leaders. Its raw wooden benches, vintage styled couches, and colorful decor gives the restaurant personality.
Popular dishes include a traditional pie or the garlic knots marinated in mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. If you are into the spices request a bowl of their specially homemade pepper sauce with jalapeños, red and green peppers, and olive oil. It definitely gives your slice a kick.
If you would like to stop by to see what all the hype is about but you are looking for an alternative to pizza try their Brick Oven Wings and a side of Garden Salad, freshly made and lightly topped with vinaigrette. Other menu favs include their hot hero sandwiches; meatball and parm or sausage and peppers amongst others. You can also try their one of their pasta dishes or a personal childhood fav beef patty with cheese.
For beer lovers or moms who just need a break, your beverage choices also include pitchers of beer or a bottle/glass of wine. Every so often you'll be graced with an impromptu performance of Sal playing the saxophone or a late night open mic session. But the icing on the cake is when anyone orders a pie you'll be reminded your pie is ready with the sound of a loud “DING!”
Now at the tender age of seventy, Sal can easily say he's done it all. A philosopher, writer, musician, lover, and pizza shop owner, Sal's advice to people is the practice of self-growth.
Coda's Corner - 4.2 out of 5 stars for experience, service, and quality of food.