Stratford pizzeria shuts down after 76 years as restaurant business 'devastated'

A landmark pizzeria in Stratford has shut down after 76 years, as restaurants still struggle under a perfect storm of inflation, worker shortages and pandemic recovery.

John Craven

Jun 14, 2023, 9:19 PM

Updated 348 days ago

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A landmark pizzeria in Stratford has shut down after 76 years, as restaurants still struggle under a perfect storm of inflation, worker shortages and pandemic recovery.
“REALLY SURPRISED”
On a busy stretch of Barnum Avenue, confused customers found the doors locked – and the lights off for good – at Salerno’s.
“Unfortunately, it looks like they may be closed for good already,” said Joel Goldowski, who drove from Fairfield for one last pie.
Salerno’s landlord confirmed the iconic restaurant closed down for good on Monday.
Tricia Bucci slid mail into a dark window.
“Really surprised. They're very good people,” she said. “I'm their mail girl, and they're very good to me. They feed – always offering me something to eat.”
Salerno’s was famous for its summer tomato pie, only offered for a few weeks a year.
RESTAURANT BUSINESS “DEVASTED”
The restaurant’s longtime owner, Carlo Salerno, is retiring. But in a Facebook post, he told customers it became financially unfeasible to stay open with the restaurant business “devastated.”
“There's no more places like this, you know, where you can sit and eat and drink,” said Mike Eannuzzi, of Stratford. “It's all take-out places around here in Stratford now.”
Salerno's is certainly not alone. The pandemic may be over, but restaurants' financial troubles are not.
“It's heartbreaking,” said Scott Dolch, with the Connecticut Restaurant Association. “But at the same time, it's not uncommon.”
Dolch said restaurants may look busy, but many diners still aren't spending like they used to.
“They're like, ‘Hey, you know what? I might not, you know, go as many times as I went before. I might not take my whole family. I might do more of a fast casual or quick serve,’” he said.
HOPE ON THE HORIZON?
Dolch believes the state needs to invest more on workforce training, to attract a new generation of hospitality workers.
“We're putting out different programs at a high school level, adult education level, to get people interested in hospitality and get them a skill set to go get a job,” he said.
In spite of the challenging climate, some businesses are succeeding. Restaurant consultants said it's all about staying current and convenient – with extra parking, outdoor dining, third delivery apps and expansion, as longtime staples Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s have done.
But for Salerno's customers, the charm was how little it changed.
“It was quite special, so I'm sad to see they're not open,” said Goldowski. “I think it's the end of an era.”
Salerno's landlord told News 12 Connecticut that she isn't sure what will replace the iconic restaurant yet.


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