Community gathers to commemorate Westport Pizzeria

WESTPORT — After nearly 52 years of serving pizza, it would be an understatement to consider Westport Pizzeria a staple in town.

Elected officials and members of the community on Friday gathered to commemorate the business after the owner announced it would close on Jan. 11.

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“For me it’s really special to be able to recognize this family for their incredible work,” state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28, said. “It’s all about a family committing itself to the community.”

Hwang was joined by state Rep. Gail Lavielle, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe, Second Selectwoman Jen Tooker and other dignitaries to recognize Westport Pizzeria owner Carmelo Mioli and his family. Attendees enjoyed pizza as they reminisced about the eatery.

“This is an opportunity for us as leaders of the community and the general community to take a moment and say thank you,” Hwang said. “Thank you for the thousands of people you’ve fed at events, and at households and helping to make them feel like they’re at home.”

The business originally opened at 107 Main St. in 1968. Mioli, commonly known as Mel, said after years of working it was time to finally retire.

“I think it’s time to do something else,” the 79-year-old Westport resident said, adding he would be spending more time with his family.

Originally from Italy, Mioli said he knew Westport was the perfect place for his family in America, due to the community-focused feel of the town. After more than 44 years on Main Street, the business moved to its current location at 143 Post Road E.

With the announcement of the restaurant’s closure, many have since come in to share their memories, Mioli said.

“I’m impressed at how many people came here. Most with tears in their eyes,” he said. “... I still look forward to seeing everybody. Whether that’s in town or even at the beach.”

Marpe said hearing the news of Mioli’s retirement was bittersweet.

“This is an exceptional business,” he said. “We celebrate our locally owned businesses because of what they bring to the community, and more than what I can think of any other business, Westport Pizzeria has been that model.”

Many in attendance recalled the personal impact Westport Pizzeria had on their lives. Westport-Weston Probate Judge Lisa Wexler said the shop was one of the reasons her family moved to Westport; her son would go on to work there until he finished college.

“It’s a beautiful story,” Wexler said of the pizzeria’s success in town.

For some, the connection went beyond the restaurant’s time in Westport. Umberto Amato, a Westport resident, was neighbors with Mioli in Sicily and arrived in the United States a month before his longtime friend.

“You couldn’t find better pizza in Westport,” Amato said. “I’ll always remember the people and this business.”

Gifts and a proclamation from the state of Connecticut was presented to Mioli for his contributions to Westport.

Surrounded by the community he’s become an integral part of, Mioli expressed gratitude for the friends and memories he made over the years.

“I’m glad everyone could be here,” he said. “This particular moment I won’t forget for the rest of my life.”