If you’ve walked past Bocelli’s Pizzeria lately, you may have seen a small sign in the window advertising its farewell.
The local makers of saucy, thincrust Italian-style deliciousness are closing their doors. On Friday, August 28, the pizza oven will fire for the last time.
Bocelli’s has been at the corner of 4th Avenue and Alexander Street for, let’s say, as long as it looks. Ron and Jane Stanyer bought it from someone named Mitch six years ago, and it was already a pizza joint then.
Its facade shares a fading paint job with the pawn shop next door, the rows of easy booth seating make me think of milkshakes and hamburgers and the diner in the movie Grease.
Plus, no one named Bocelli remains involved with Bocelli’s. Maybe no one ever was.
I can’t say for sure, because when I stopped by the restaurant to talk to Ron, we only spoke about what seemed most important, which is pizza. “As a professional, there’s no background,” Stanyer says of his pizza history. He learned the Bocelli’s ropes from the previous owner when he decided to buy the place.
But he’s been in food service most of his working life, having spent 30 years running the local movie theatres and their concessions.
And, he says, “I’ve loved pizza since I was a boy.” Pizza was a hard-won love for Stanyer. The small town he grew up in didn’t have a pizza place. Faced with the two options of either buying something pre-made and frozen, or making his own, he opted for the latter.
Bocelli’s is the first restaurant he’s owned. But pizza’s in his blood. His dad’s mother is from Italy, there’s an Italian astronaut in the sky somewhere who shares his lineage. Buying a pizza place was really only kind-of-new. “At the time I thought it would be a great opportunity for my daughter and her husband,” Stanyer says, giving me a sideways glance. “Her ex-husband now owns Epic.”
They’re a pizza family. Stanyer makes them, Jane and his daughter Jennifer serve them. “My wife is amazing at making people feel at home,” he says.
Working close to his family is part of the joy of it. “Nobody lives forever, and it’s nice to spend time with your family, especially as adults,” he says. “But,” he adds, “when you say the wrong thing to your coworker, they come home with you at night. They know where you sleep.”
The Stanyers’ reasons for closing are a combination, but it’s largely the convenient timing of their lease ending and the couple’s approaching retirement. “We’re both not kids anymore,” Stanyer says, smiling across his pizza station at his wife. “Life is short. We want to travel.”
It’s a semi-retirement, as they’ve both always maintained other part-time jobs in addition to running Bocelli’s. “I’m still going to make pizza at home,” says Stanyer, who claims to have perfected the dish on the BBQ. “I can’t complain at all,” he says. “I’ve met so many amazing people. We’ve been very thankful for everyone who’s enjoyed our pizza, our personality.”
He pauses as another cluster of customers enters the restaurant, he and his wife both taking a moment to smile at them. “Yeah,” he says, turning back to me. “It’s been really cool.”