FORT LEE, N.J. — A popular family-run Italian restaurant in Fort Lee is celebrating 45 years of catering to locals without cutting quality.
“It’s a fine dance between keeping with tradition and evolving,” said Gene Bazzarelli of Franco's Metro just off Route 46.
Parents, Franco and Antoinetta emigrated from Italy, saved money their money and in 1972 opened Main Pizza -- a 20-seat pizzeria and eatery -- on Main Street in Fort Lee.
Back then, a veal parm dinner went for $2.25 and a slice of pizza 50 cents.
They moved to Plaza West Shopping Center in the 1980s, renovated, then had a rebranding in 2006, when Gene signed on.
Even through economic crisis in 2008, the family maintained the type of quality that kept customers comoing back.
“My mom had the foresight," said Bazzarelli, who has a background in marketing and sales. “Customers still wanted to receive a quality dish.”
He and his sister complement a staff of two dozen who have seen a 30% increase in business since the rebranding -- with fresh seafood dishes, made-to-order chicken and gourmet pizzas among the most popular meals.
Bazzarelli keeps the business moving forward -- dividing up deliveries between Chow Gofer and his own drivers. He also takes online orders for parties, through Bergen Eats Catering by Franco's.
“Because of the catering, we’re able to fully service all of Bergen County and not just the surrounding communities,” he said.
With a family of his own, Bazzarelli honors the hard work of his parents.
“My greatest accomplishment is now that if (my mom) needs to take days off, because she has worked for over 45 years, she can. That’s important to me," he said. "Now they can enjoy themselves a little bit.”
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