By Dan Shine
Read part one.
When Tony Zuppardi got sick in 1983, he turned the business over to his children, Robert, Cheryl and Lori. The three of them ran the business until Robert became ill and then totally disabled. Today, Cheryl and Lori continue to run the business along with their children.
Grandmother Angelina Zuppardi lived to be over 90, outlasting her husband, three of her children and her daughter-in-law. However, old age is but a long process of surrender, and the mind is tough yet fragile: as time went by, Angelina would show up for work, as she had for decades and begin her daily routine, making pizzas on a bare countertop where circles of dough should have been. She made a mess, but her granddaughters made no move to stop her—for they understood that everyone needs to have something to do, and to feel that the world needs them.
Cheryl and Lori Zuppardi have chosen to maintain the restaurant pretty much as it has been for the last fifty years. They plan to stick with the current business model and avoid the idea of franchising. However, they now ship their pizzas all over the country: currently, Zuppardi pizzas have been enjoyed in thirty eight states.
What guides the current Zuppardi management as they run their business? They believe in the principles that their parents and grandparents employed in bygone times—the things that they were taught as children–and they feel strongly about staying true to their parents’ wishes. And they are true to Tony Zuppardi’s Rule: that “the last bite has to taste just as good as the first.”
Cheryl Zuppardi says, “I’ve worked here for my whole life and I feel close to my parents here. I look up at their portrait on the wall while I’m working, and I feel proud of them. And I know that they are right there with me. I know how proud they are of how we are keeping the business running. In a way, we feel like caretakers of our parents’ legacy: Dad used to say, ‘This is the roof I raised my business and family under, and we’re staying right here.’” And so it all continues.
Zuppardi’s most popular pie is the homemade sausage pizza with mozzarella and mushrooms; this pizza has always been called “The Special,” as it was originally named by Tony Zuppardi. It should be noted that in order to satisfy their customers’ cravings, the Zuppardi family creates 250 pounds of their own special sausage every week.
Speaking of the toppings, back in the early days at the “old” Zuppardis, the toppings were all prepared next door, in the Angelina’s kitchen: Tony Zuppardi had wired up a doorbell arrangement with the button in the restaurant and the bell in the house. A code system was created for ordering the different toppings, which would be prepared upon demand on the family stove, and brought over by Angelina in an iron skillet.
Zuppardi’s Apizza is believed to be West Haven’s oldest pizza parlor. Dec. 7, 2019 marks Zuppardi’s 85th anniversary; stop in soon and have a bite of West Haven history.