Our Town is celebrating our 45th anniversary by profiling a neighborhood business that has been around longer than we have. Know of a local business that should be on our list? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hanging in the front window of Sutton Pizza is a framed paper menu from 1969. A large cheese pizza cost $2. Eggplant a la Parmigiana set you back $1.80. Meatball hero: 75 cents and half-a-buck for beer. The prices, but little else, have changed for the neighborhood pizza joint established in 1967 on First Avenue between 62nd and 63rd streets.
The eatery was opened by Nick God (full Greek name kept a family secret), and is now run by his three sons, Pete, Greg, and Jim. Greg, 63, has been behind the counter tossing the dough and cooking for about 45 years and considers his best-made dish the baked ziti. “I won’t share the recipe, but you can’t get this just anywhere,” Greg says, while adding that he still does about 90% of the cooking.
One major change to the “pizza” place occurred in the mid-1990s when they added a few Greek specialties such as gyro, souvlaki, and a Greek salad.
Samanda Perez has lived around the corner for five years and dines at Sutton often. Late on a recent Saturday night, she recommended the Greek salad, but raves about the pizza, calling it “very delicious and the best in the neighborhood.” Perez makes a special point to add that the crust is “done perfectly.” Originally from South America, Perez often takes visiting friends to this, her favorite neighborhood pizza joint.
Rapheal Rodriguez has taken his post-work meals at Sutton for about seven years, and while munching on a beef patty topped with melted mozzarella, echoes Perez’ opinion that Sutton’s pizza is the best in the area.
Jim, 58, began working as a delivery boy when he was only 13 and now mostly comes in to fill-in as needed. On a recent Wednesday evening, Jim was working behind the counter, covering for his concert-bound nephew. The upbeat Jim calls the current business, “beautiful… never been better.”
While business has been fairly steady over the years, the mid-1980s was problematic as stores in the area shuttered and there was talk of closing. But, in an unusual twist, the landlord offered the longstanding tenants six months of free rent until they got back on their feet. Jim calls the then-landlord, known simply as Tony G., “the best man on earth.”
Sutton’s lease is up at the end of the year, and the brothers now negotiate with Tony G’s daughter. “If the rent is good, than yes, we’ll sign on,” says Greg, who is hoping to sign a five-year lease.
What is it like working with your family for so long? “It means a lot. We all get along… That’s why I’m still here,” Greg says.
The brothers, who all live in Queens, love the Upper East Side neighborhood they’ve served for over four decades, and Jim concludes, “Hey, we must be doing something right.”