Now run by the second generation of the Ranaudo family, the business is celebrating 35 years of success in West New York.
"When you come to Sal's you get to know everyone on a first name basis," said Domenick Ranaudo, who now runs Sal's Pizzeria with his brother Rocco. "We have seen generations pass through here. Customers that started out coming here in grammar school now bring their kids."
The family business was started by Ranaudo's father Gennaro "Geno" Ranaudo, who took over the original Sal's Pizzeria in 1972.
"My father came from Italy in 1970 and bought the place in 1972," said Ranaudo. "He worked very hard and didn't speak the language, so it was tough."
As a matter of fact, that was why the name of the restaurant was not initially changed. However, although the family retained the use of Sal's name, it was their take on traditional Italian dishes that quickly created his own loyal customer fan base.
"We are here everyday, and we tend to put a lot of pride in our food and in our pizza," said Ranaudo. "We use the freshest ingredients and our own particular recipes."
Growing up with tradition
Geno Ranaudo immigrated from Chianghetella, Italy in 1970 and began working in other local pizza parlors around North Hudson.
After seeing county residents' love for Italian food, especially for pizza, Geno decided to go for the American dream and went into business for himself.
"He saw the potential there when he bought the place, and we have been successful here," said Ranaudo. In the beginning, Geno handled business in the front, while his mother prepared the food in the kitchen.
"What I remember most is that he worked a lot of hours, but the kitchen was my grandmother's, and no one was let in," recalled Rocco Ranaudo. "She did most of the preparation herself."
These days the kitchen has about three to four people working on preparations, and the family's attention to service and quality is still observed.
"I've been here since I was five years old," said Ranaudo. "I practically grew up in this place and would like to keep the tradition going."
Domenick and Rocco began helping out in the family business throughout high school and college, and officially took over for their father 10 years ago.
"I took over the business 10 years ago, so it's still family-run, and we keep the same values," said Ranaudo.
Although Rocco also grew up at Sal's, he ventured off to find another calling at first. After graduating from Seton Hall University, Rocco started work on his MBA, but the family business called him back.
"It's like you're born with it," said Rocco, who also has plans to open an Italian restaurant in Bergen County in the near future.
"We take a lot of pride in cooking and enjoying our food," said Ranaudo, who believes the base of Italian values starts at the table. "There are many Sals, but only one Sal's Pizzeria."
35 years of success
So what has kept Sal's customers coming back? The family believes it's partly their traditional recipes, consistency and freshness, but more than anything, it is the fact that at Sal's you are one of the family.
"I have been coming here for about 20 years," said customer Kevin McCann. "It's a family restaurant, everybody gets along, and we have a great rivalry here with the Red Sox and the Yankees. It's just a great place."
"[Domenick and Rocco] are very professional, and are a class-act all the way. Plus the food is great," he added. For the last 35 years Sal's has enjoyed a loyal fan bases that even continues to come back after they have moved to other parts of the country.
"We have some customers that have moved out of the area and take pizza with them [from their visits]," said Ranaudo. "They actually preorder pizzas and take it with them."
Sal's pizza has traveled from New Jersey to Florida, Nebraska and North Carolina.
"Our pizza has probably traveled more than any other pizza in the country," said Rocco.
Sal's Pizzeria celebrated its 35th anniversary last June 17, and had shirts commemorating the milestone printed up.
"We made t-shirts and we gave them out to the customers," said Rocco. "Our grandmother passed away that same week, so we were closed for a couple of days."
The family is also hoping to have an official celebration commemorating their 35th anniversary very soon. "We might sell a slice for 35 cents [which was the price in 1972]," said Ranaudo.
"I love West New York because the people are very simple and very easy to please. This area has been very good to us."
"We would like to give our appreciation and thanks to everyone," said Rocco. "Without them we wouldn't be here."
To comment on this story, e-mail Jessica Rosero at firstname.lastname@example.org