Louigi Illiano stood behind the counter at Tony’s Pizza on Route 112 in Medford, kneading dough, spreading sauce and sprinkling cheese. He did it with a smile on his face, talking to customers and co-workers at the same time.
Tony’s Pizza has been owned and operated by the Illiano family for nearly 30 years. Louigi’s father Giuseppe, an Italian immigrant who moved to America in 1973, has been in the business of making pizza since he passed through Ellis Island. Giuseppe began working with the Scotto family in Nassau County and soon ventured off to start his own business.
His travels took him to Pennsylvania and Ohio before moving back to Long Island and settling in Medford. Tony’s Pizza was already established before Giuseppe purchased the business but it has since flourished.
Now, the business is run and managed by Louigi, who gets occasional relief from his three brothers.
“I treat the place like it's my own because eventually one day it will be my own,” he said. “But to be honest if you're going to do anything in life you do it the right way because it's a reflection. If I go to church or the super market and people see me and say, ‘oh that's Luigi, he burned my pie, he's a real whatever,’ I'm going to look bad. I want them to say, ‘every time I come in he always remembers my kids name and I always see him at the park and he always has a smile on’. Something like that goes a long way and people remember you for it.”
Louigi remembers the fall when Hurricane Gloria hit Long Island nearly 25 years ago and cites that as an example of the business’ hospitality.
“We were actually the only pizzeria that was open,” he said. “We actually opened up at 4:30 in the morning and hand rolled about five batches of dough – our forearms were like Popeye. We served until we ran out of dough, and that would usually be 6 or 7 o’clock at night. It brought awareness to us, we were just a regular pizzeria but people saw how hand-in-hand we were with the community.”
Tony’s Pizza was bustling in the early afternoon, with orders going out and pies being made for customers in store. Serving customers in Medford for so many years, Tony’s Pizza now has the backing of the Medford Chamber of Commerce, which Louigi said “means the world to them.”
It’s a combination of quality service and quality product that make Tony’s Pizza successful.
“Use the best sauce, use the best cheese, use the best quality toppings,” Louigi said about his pizzeria’s commitment to serving quality pizza. “Sometimes it could be a little more expensive than other pizzerias but if you have good flavor you don’t care.
"You can spend nine dollars on a pie and buy a five dollar bottle of tums for indigestion or spend fourteen dollars on a pie and be satisfied.”