For 30 years, Armando Paolo has operated his pizza shop, Armando's, with little local competition. But when Real Pizza, a gourmet pizza shop, opened on the same Boston street last year, Paolo wasn't concerned.
"Please, when you do the best, you don't have to worry about it," Paolo recently told the Boston Globe.
The 67-year-old native of Benevento, Italy, knows there are customers for Real's style of pizza. But he remains confident there are more who like pizza the old-fashioned way.
He's also certain there's a need for more family places like his, pizza parlors where the owners and employees know customers' names.
"I have customers who come from as far as Billerica and Waltham," says Paolo. "I have a customer who's 96 years old and still comes in."
On Armando's walls are hung photographs of neighborhood soccer and baseball teams sponsored by the restaurant, plus awards it has received from the community. Paolo also visits a nearby school to read to students.
Learning how to make such good pizza and keep a business running all the while wasn't easy, Paolo said. The man from whom he bought the store promised to stay and train him for one month, but he stayed only one week.
"I must have burned a thousand pizzas before I got it right," Paolo reflected.
Once he got it right, he never changed it. He still uses the same cheese, dough and sauce.
"When I started out, I only made eight or nine pizzas a day," Paolo said, but now he makes a couple hundred each day. How did that happen?
"I serve good food here," Paolo said.