BAYSIDE, QUEENS — It’s been a staple in the Bayside community for nearly 50 years. And soon, customers will have to savor that last slice.
Anna Sapienza, owner of Jack’s Pizza & Pasta in The Bay Terrace Open-Air Shopping Center, will have to vacate soon because her lease is not being renewed, and many in the community are hoping the landmark is not down for the count.
Anna feels bittersweet watching her employees work behind the counter.
“Too bad it won’t be for long,” she said.
Tuesday was the first day in nearly two years that the 83-year-old stepped foot inside her second home. She’s been away due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“All my boys are very good workers,” she said, watching her employees work. “That’s what they’re here for — to help me and make me happy.”
The pizzeria has been running for nearly five decades and Anna’s husband, Jack Sapienza, opened the store in 1972. They married in Palermo, Italy when they were young.
Anna took over the place once Jack passed away 15 years ago.
Debra Weinstein, a customer, told PIX11 News that she’s heartbroken by the developments.
“[I’m] shocked and upset and sad,” Weinstein said. “We come here every week. This is a staple in the community.”
Anna’s daughter, Laura Sapienza, practically grew up in the shop and claims it could have been handled differently.
“It was never a moment of humanity,” Laura said. “There was never inclusiveness, which I think is what’s going wrong in the world.”
Customers are now greeted by a big yellow sign in the window informing them of their final weeks.
If they’re lucky, they’ll get to reminisce with Anna, who spoke with a longtime 91-year-old customer about how he used to sit at the middle table “all the time.”
“You know what they say in Italian?” Anna asked. “The big fish eats the little fish. I’m the little fish and they’re the big fish.”
Laura said that they’ll be closing their doors sometime next month, but also said not count them out just yet. They have something else in store — and you can bet there will be pizza.
Cord Meyer, the development company, sent a statement to PIX11 News:
“Jack’s Pizzeria has refused to meet its financial obligations. Their lease expired in September 2020, but in acknowledgment of their long history, we agreed to let them stay until the end of 2021 and offered them generous rent concessions. We are disappointed that our relationship with Jack’s has been mischaracterized. If a tenant refuses to meet agreed upon obligations, we need to focus on ensuring that the Bay Terrace remains a vibrant shopping center.”
Laura told PIX11 News that they were paying rent to Cord Meyer at a discounted rate because of the pandemic, but claim they agreed to eventually backpay what was missing.