Sgt. Pepperoni’s NY Pizza opens on Factory Street

Co-Owner Shannon M. Exford, left, teaches Alexia Torella, right, how to correctly make a supreme steak sub at Sgt. Pepperoni's on Monday evening. Amanda Morrison/ Watertown Daily Times

Co-Owner Shannon M. Exford, left, teaches Alexia Torella, right, how to correctly make a supreme steak sub at Sgt. Pepperoni’s on Monday evening. Amanda Morrison/ Watertown Daily Times

Sgt. Pepperoni’s NY Pizza — known years ago for its taco pizzas, jumbo-sized chicken wings and steak subs — is back in business after being shuttered for 12 years.

The pizzeria, which closed at the Paddock Arcade in 2001, reopened Sunday at the former Soluri’s Pizza building, 526 Factory St. The building was bought from Robert Soluri Jr. by co-owners Shannon M. Exford and Anthony M. Heaney this fall. The sale marked the end of an era for Soluri’s, which originally was opened in 1970 by Robert E. Soluri Sr. at 988 LeRay St.

Customers who were sad to see Sgt. Pepperoni’s leave are enthusiastic about its comeback, said Mrs. Exford, who launched the original business at 566 State St. in 1991 with her late husband, C. Louis Partridge. At that time, Mr. Heaney was an 18-year-old employee who delivered pizzas.

This summer Mr. Heaney, now 38, and Mrs. Exford, 42, decided to team up and revive Sgt. Pepperoni’s when they saw Soluri’s was for sale.

“It’s been like watching an old TV show for customers,” he said. “They’re going to watch it, even though it’s dated. We were around for a long time doing our own thing.”

Comments about the comeback have surfaced on the business’s Facebook page, said Mrs. Exford, who also owns accounting firm Exford & Exford on Mechanic Street.

“In the ’90s we had to earn our business and it built up slowly, whereas now, people are knocking on the door before we’re open,” she said. “Someone commented on Facebook that their dad used to order pizza at our State Street store. Now they’re going to do the same thing with their son.”

The eatery’s time-honored menu features “super jumbo wings” cooked in a charcoal barbecue pit; 10 uncooked wings weigh about two pounds. Pizza of the month specials will feature chicken cordon bleu and “Big Mac” varieties. The latter is Mrs. Exford’s latest creation.

“It’s made with special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions,” she said. “We’ll never be the home of the $5 pizza here, because we take pride in using quality ingredients.”

Its dining area will stay open until 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, catering to night owls.

Mr. Soluri Sr., 81, said that while he is disappointed Soluri’s Pizza has closed, it enjoyed a strong 43-year run in the community. His son, Robert Jr., took over the family-owned business in the early 1990s.

“There were no shops delivering when I decided to open in 1969,” he said. “All of the news reporters got together and ordered pizzas from all of the shops and rated them in the Times, and only two were rated as halfway decent. So I knew I had a chance.”

The Soluri family took pride in making pizzas with quality ingredients, he said, and built a strong following of customers because of it.

“I used to have people order every night open, and they were very loyal customers,” Mr. Soluri said.

Sgt. Pepperoni’s is open from 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times