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Garfield Pizzeria Stays In The Family

Peter Lewer started as a dishwasher in his teens. Photo Credit: Anthony Locicero
Santoni's opened in 1988 in Garfield. There's also a Ridgewood location. Photo Credit: Anthony Locicero

GARFIELD, N.J.– Peter Lewer of Garfield figures he knows half of his pizzeria customers by name – or at least by order.

Lewer, 29, has been working at Santoni's since he was a teen. He started part-time after school at the Outwater Lane business, which his father, Ed, and family friend Joe Parillo opened in 1988.

"I do every aspect: the sandwich counter, making pizza, taking orders," he said. "I even fill in as a delivery driver when someone is out."

Lewer took over after his father died a decade ago.

"It's a lot of work," he said. "Everyone in town knew my father. He was a big part of town."

His brother Chris runs a three-year-old Ridgewood location with Parillo's son, John.

The Garfield shop has sponsored city sports teams and won several blind taste test competitions.

It's also attracted a wide range of clientele from all over -- from former NFL Miles Austin's mother to comedian Artie Lange – who orders meatball parmigiana heroes – to Zack Maali of Hawthorne, who recently picked up three slices.

After working on some of the city's sewers and drains, Maali and his coworkers stopped in for slices. They ended up coming back for a pie.

Now Maali stops in at least once a week.

"It's the best pizza around," he said.

Santoni's is open seven days per week from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday–Saturday, and noon-10 p.m. on Sunday.

Lewer is there at least five of those days -- although "even when I'm not there, I'm there," he said.

The most popular dishes? Plain pies, meatballs and chicken.

"It's all in-house," Lewer said. "We filet, pound and bread the chicken. We make the beef meatballs from scratch."

The pizza doesn't sit around all day either.

"We'd rather throw out a pie if it's old," Lewer said.

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