Williston Park’s Gino’s Pizza owner Frank Speciale has been serving pizza to the community since April 1979 and is still in the back cooking every day, his son Giovanni said.
While there are other pizza places called “Gino’s,” the pizzeria and ristorante on Willis Avenue is not a franchise and the store is his father’s only pizzeria, Speciale said. He said that the name came from another pizzeria his father worked at before buying the pizzeria in Williston Park. His father moved into the neighborhood in 1980 where Speciale said he grew up.
“They’re single individual brick and mortars,” Speciale said of other pizzerias using the “Gino’s” name. “There might be a few other ones, but it’s just a name.”
Speciale commended Williston Park as a great community and said that the store will often see the same customers, many of whom knew his father growing up.
“It’s just like everyone knows each other. It’s a small community where you know everybody by their first name,” Speciale said. “So, you grew up together and everybody helps each other … It’s a very, very friendly community where everyone feels like your family.”
What started out as a small pizzeria eventually expanded into a ristorante with a dining area. Showing customers respect and giving back to the community has helped keep Gino’s strong for four decades, Speciale said. The pizzeria is always trying to help local schools, sports teams and community events like Williston Day.
“We definitely help out a majority of the schools in the area here including Mineola, Herricks and we help out Saint Aidan’s a lot,” Speciale said. “We definitely help out the kids.”
Speciale said he is not sure if he will take his father’s place as owner in the future. Frank is still working in the back every day, Speciale said.
“Frank is still here every day. Frank is still making his pizza,” Speciale said. “That’s a big pair of shoes to fill.”
Speciale said that people in the community and even people visiting the village for the holiday will check up on Frank and see if he’s still at the pizzeria.
“They come in going, ‘Frank, you’re still here’ and ‘ I remember being this tall and not being able to see over the counter and you yelling at me, and you’re still here,” Speciale said.
Speciale estimated that his father has made “a little over a million” pizzas in his lifetime. What has kept people coming back to Gino’s is his father’s dedication to the craft.
“He cares about quality. He wants what he believes is good and so he honestly makes it from his heart,” Speciale said.
Even for the staff, he spends time making sure his workers get quality pizza, Speciale said. He starts cooking lunch at 10 a.m. and they aren’t eating until 2 p.m., Speciale said.
“It’s more than sauce, cheese and dough,” Speciale said.