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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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New spin on local favorite: Westport Pizzeria moves from Main Street to new site

Updated 5:36 pm, Monday, February 24, 2014

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  • Mel Mioli, the owner and co-founder of Westport Pizzeria, starts spinning out the pies Monday at the eatery's new location at 143 Post Road East, where it moved after 45 years on Main Street. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed

    Mel Mioli, the owner and co-founder of Westport Pizzeria, starts spinning out the pies Monday at the eatery's new location at 143 Post Road East, where it moved after 45 years on Main Street.

    Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Sometimes when one pizza oven door shuts, another opens.

So it is with Westport Pizzeria which, after 45 years of doing business on Main Street, is serving its locally beloved pies from a new location.

The new restaurant at 143 Post Road East opened its doors Monday, and while the transition is still in progress, customers can still find the fare prepared by owner Mel Mioli and staff as welcoming as before.

"I kind of like the new place better," said Tyler Dimaio, 8, of Westport, who was among some of the first diners Monday.

"The pizza's obviously going to be the same," said his brother Sam, 14, "but it's nice to have more room."

The new eatery is more spacious, with table seating on either side up front, compared to the narrow space that housed the original.

"Understandably, you miss where you were," said Jacques Voris, a longtime employee, "but at the same time it's exciting to face the new challenges of doing what we do and doing it better.

"It's like buying a new car," he said, noting that owners miss the old vehicle for emotional reasons, but the new one comes with more bells and whistles, and all the fun that entails.

"It's strange at the moment," said Monica Kent, who has worked at the pizzeria for 30 years, since leaving high school. "It's going to take some time getting used to, but it's new and exciting."

"I'm happy," said Mioli, who co-founded the business more than four decades ago.

And Mioli also owns the building that now houses Westport Pizzeria. Unfortunately, the landlord of the former site on Mian Street -- Malkin Properties -- after making a verbal promise to renew the pizzeria's lease, asked Mioli and the neighboring Francois DuPont Jewelers to vacate with no explanation.

Now Mioli can operate the business on his own terms. "I'm excited for this," he said.

"For me it's emotional," said his brother Joe, who was on hand to help with Monday with opening the new place.

"We started the business together," he said, although he eventually sold his interest in 2002 when he embarked on a political career. "Even though I come in and get a free lunch," he laughed.

Joe's son Frank, a longtime employee, said he was a little anxious over helping get all the details of the move in order.

"It's going to take us a little while figure things out -- the new dance steps," he said, "but we're optimistic about it."

Other family members, too, were feeling emotional Monday, including Mel's son Sandro. "It's all hit me pretty hard," he said.

"It was a really sad transition, but I'm excited for what's to come," he added.

Clearly the customers are as well.

"It's a little bigger and I feel like there's more space to walk," said Alyssa Dimaio, 12. "The pizza's still amazing.

"The best pizza in Westport."