Front Street has undergone significant changes throughout the past decades but one thing has always remained the same, Tony’s Pizzeria.
Last year marked at least 50 years of the pizza joint, but owner Christina Prantera says she's not sure of the exact date.
“I just went back and roughly estimated,” says Prantera.
“It’s so long ago, I don’t even know how to find out the proper date.”
Tony's Pizzeria has been passed down in Prantera's family from generation to generation.
“There was two owners previous. They owned it for a few years and then my great uncle Sam purchased it from them. After about three years he sold it to my uncle Rocco. He was the owner for 29 years and he passed away almost 12 years ago and I took over then,” says Prantera.
Growing up, owning a pizzeria was the last thing on Prantera’s mind.
“My parents owned a pizzeria and all I ever said growing up was that I was never going to do it. I went to school for hotel restaurant management and I was the general manager for a restaurant for 10 years. Then uncle passed away and I decided I wanted some change because I was never really spending much time with my daughter (Jada). So I left that industry to do this and my daughter was pretty much raised in the pizzeria with me. She helps me run it now.”
Prantera says the secret to running a successful business for 50 years is to maintain the things that are working.
“In all these years nothing has changed. The same recipes, right from our bacon, our dough and our sauces, we make it all in house, even though over the years there have been easier ways to do thing. So for example, we cook our bacon in house where a lot of pizzerias buy it pre-made. Another thing is the way we do our sauce. A lot of people nowadays would use a processor, but I use an old-school tomato crusher because it keeps the consistency thick.”
Keeping things the same also extends to not using restaurant delivery apps.
“They take anywhere from 15% to 25% of the profit and it’s just not possible for us to do that,” says Prantera.
“It’s just such a crazy time we’re living in and everybody is so into technology. I can’t bring myself to change to these fast food franchises because it’s going to actually cheap out on the quality of the product and I don’t want to do that. I take pride in keeping it the way that it is.”
Even though it’s been in the family for all these years, Prantera doesn’t want her daughter Jada to take over the business.
“It’s hard because it’s seven days a week, always at night, every day, so it’s tough not being home in the evening all the time. Most people don’t realize but we just never close. So it’s not something that I would want for my daughter to take over. I hope she goes to do something else.”
But whatever happens, Prantera says she wants Tony’s Pizzeria to keep going for as long as it can.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed it and I love my customers and I love the product that my family puts out. It means a lot to me and my daughter. Almost all of my regulars call, we know their orders by heart, we know their voice. It’s literally a little family business where everybody knows your name and everybody talks and it’s something that’s a staple in Thorold.”