When Sal DiFiore walked into work the morning of Jan. 2, he thought it was just going to be a normal day. But by afternoon, his day was anything but normal.
At around 3 p.m. that new year’s weekend, a car drove straight through the front of Famous Pizza Express at 570 Kappock St., putting a halt on any plans to pick up pizza there … for the next six months.
A driver was trying to avoid a collision with another car near Famous Pizza, driving his SUV straight through the restaurant’s window. While everyone was trapped until first responders arrived, no one was injured, DiFiore said.
“It hurts,” said DiFiore, who has owned Famous Pizza for nine years. “People call once in a while asking when are we opening, and it’s very hard.
”I feel bad for everybody, and I felt bad for myself.”
The pain DiFiore felt got so bad, actually, he needed to be hospitalized, according to his wife, Janine DiFiore.
“Sal definitely suffered some shock, because for a couple of weeks, he definitely wasn’t himself,” said Janine DiFiore, who has been married to Sal for 23 years. “I had to take him to Valley Hospital because it was a little disturbing. But it was just the shock of the entire process.”
The only thing curing Sal DiFiore, however, was the chance to serve pizza again. So the two began the process of rebuilding their pizzeria. And for six months, the DiFiores did a complete overhaul to Famous Pizza Express, changing the restaurant’s interior as well as the menu — finally reopening June 12.
“It is really just a big relief,” Janine DiFiore said. “Sal works like 70 hours a week, and then it just came to a screeching halt. “So we are both very happy to now be open and get our lives back together again.”
The DiFiores aren’t the only ones working again. Deliveryman Peter Rafael said returning to the job has made June 12 the best day of the year.
“I was so happy to wake up this morning and to finally be working again,” Rafael said. “I feel like I’m right back into the routine again.”
The past six months were hard on Rafael. He didn’t have another job to fall back, and he vowed to stay loyal to his co-workers who he treats like family.
“It was definitely hard,” Rafael said. “I did not know what was going to happen. I am just glad that I stuck with the people here.”
Riverdale residents were glad to be eating at Famous Pizza again, too. Longtime customer Karen Bernstein wanted to order a pie Jan. 2, but instead was utterly shocked.
“I did not even know what happened,” she said. “But now that I am back, I’m happy. I have been coming here for so many years, so to be back at one of my favorite spots is just great.”