As many students noticed upon their return to school this January, the vacancy left by the departure of Wendy’s last fall has been filled by Collegetown Pizzeria, located on the corner of College Ave. and Dryden Rd.
According to owners Khaled Attia and Sam Hamad — who worked for Mama Teresa’s for several years — business has been booming in the last two weeks, largely thanks to the Cornell population.
“Collegetown Pizzeria is open to serve the Cornell University area; our plan for delivery, for now, is to not go too far out of the Cornell University area. Other stores have problems with delivery. [Customers] complain of three to four hour waits. We’re going to serve [just the] Cornell area for now to give the best service,” Hamad said.
Cornell students in need of a bite to eat have been attracted to the restaurant for its quick take-out food and convenient location.
Explaining his recent trip to the restaurant, David Russell ’03 said, “I was hungry and I was curious. You can only go to Mama T’s so many times and the location was optimal.”
The pizzeria has been pulling in large crowds at lunch and dinner and is also benefiting from the “late night, bar rush hour,” Hamad said. According to Attia, these often wild crowds provide a constant source of entertainment for the owners of the pizzeria. Other times, the “excitement” of some customers causes banging on the glass and, in one case, a broken lightbulb.
Attia, the primary owner, came to Ithaca, “based on [Hamad’s] knowledge of the area.” Having spent the past seven years in Long Island and a previous eight years in Brooklyn, NY, Attia has worked in the restaurant business for many years, including the famous Gino’s of Manhasset, N.Y.
When a sign appeared in the window of Wendy’s last October advertising the vacancy, Attia contacted the landlord and signed the lease at the end of November. The restaurant took about two months to renovate before its January opening.
“It’s new. It’s exciting. The people are very nice but it had some vestigial tinges of Wendy’s which interfered with my enjoyment of the newness. But the small-talk [with the owners] was gratifying [and] as I left my hunger was appeased and I felt content,” Jesse Grossman ’04 said.
Located on the same block as Stella’s Coffeeshop and Sam Goody, Collegetown Pizzeria offers competition to several other restaurants in the area, especially Mama Teresa’s on Dryden Rd.
Attia asserts that, despite regular inquiry, Collegetown Pizzeria is, “not associated with [Mama T’s], but [is] completely independent. They don’t want to be a part of us and we don’t want to be a part of them.”
Enzo Merendino, owner of Mama T’s said that business was affected slightly. “In the beginning, people want to try it, some people maybe like it and stay with it. If a new pizza restaurant opens I don’t mind. I don’t think much has changed. Mama T’s offers good quality — we buy the best food. Some tomatoes even come from Italy. We also have a lot of experience.”
Mama Teresa’s has been open since November of 1997.
According to Mike Folejwski, an employee of the Nines, Collegetown Pizzeria has had little effect on business. “We’ve got better pizza. [Also,] our pizza’s a better value.”
Several local business owners and customers in the area are questioning the future success of the new restaurant, especially in light of the recent close of Frank’s on Eddy St.
“In commercial Collegetown — which is a matter of three blocks — why would someone open a pizza place within a block of another successful pizza place?” Sara Rostanski ’04 noted.
Pete Panek, another employee of the Nines, also gave his opinion on the longevity of the new restaurant. “The Nines has been open since 1980– I’ve been here 17 years … We’ve seen [other restaurants] come and go.”
Despite worries, Hamad asserts that, “business has been good, beautiful, wonderful.”
Archived article by Laura Rowntree