A dough-slinging institution in Stratford, Connecticut, is closing after 76 years in business, with the co-owner partially blaming the economy for his decision.

In a June 13 post on Facebook, Carlo Salerno announced that he and his family would be shutting down Salerno’s Apizza as his birthday approached. “I had planned to close Salerno’s by my 80th birthday this coming July,” he wrote. “I felt 80 is a good age for me to retire.”

He added that, after nearly eight decades in business, “it’s become increasingly difficult for me to keep our doors open. Let’s face it: The COVID years…the shortage of qualified workers…and the current recession has devastated the restaurant business in Connecticut.”

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Salerno’s, locally famous for its plum tomato pies, is a classic mom-and-pop pizzeria with a retro atmosphere and doo-wop tunes playing on the sound system. Even the sign greeting customers at the door evokes a sense of nostalgia, with the words “Remember When….” in cursive script.

this photo shows a slice being extracted from a whole plum tomato pizza at Salerno's

Salerno’s famous plum tomato pie (Salerno’s / Facebook)

The restaurant’s menu doesn’t list any signature pizzas, but it’s packed with pasta entrees, plus grinders, calzones, beers and wines. Salerno’s has no website and only infrequently posts food photos on its Facebook page. Despite that, the pizzeria has 1,889 followers on the social media platform.

While digital marketing doesn’t seem to be its strong suit, the pizzeria’s delivery car is an eye-catching red and yellow antique Studebaker taxi from the 1940s. Last summer delivery drivers also showed up at customers’ homes in a 1931 Ford Model A, painted dark green with yellow hubcaps.

this photo shows an antique Ford Model A car branded with the Salerno's Apizza logo

Salerno’s Apizza / Facebook

Salerno’s parents, Vito and Josephine Salerno, founded the restaurant in 1947 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, then relocated it to Stratford in 1970, CTPost.com reported. Carlo Salerno took it over after his dad passed away in 2002.

The post announcing the closure garnered 500 comments and 515 shares, as Salerno’s fans expressed their love for the iconic pizzeria and shared their memories about it. On June 15, Salerno followed up with a post that noted, “There is a part two to this story that we will share…when we can.”

“It has been an incredible honor to read your heartwarming stories and hear of the impact our little restaurant has made on so many of you over the years,” Salerno wrote. “Reading your comments brought tears to my eyes! We love you, and we love our restaurant!”

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