Past & present pizza memories at Sonny’s

We have all had fond memories as a child. One of mine starts with my dad not being around much. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “That doesn’t sound so fond.” Still, once a week, my father would come pick me up and take me out for pizza at Sonny’s in Norwalk.

Every Friday I knew that dinner meant pizza with my dad. He would pull up in his car and I would run out and hop in the passenger seat. The ride was a quick one over to West Avenue. I remember always being excited to pull up anticipating thin-crust goodness. The restaurant itself was not eye candy. An old looking exterior of red and white with an Italian flag on the sign seemed appropriate but seemed outdated even for the late 80s, early 90s. The inside with simple glass tables, black cushioned chairs, a convenience store soda cooler, and carafes of wine were very ordinary. The most memorable, even to this day, was the pizza pick-up counter where as a kid, I could just about see anything in the kitchen even on my tippy toes. That saying, “Never judge a book by its cover,” it applies here.

My dad and I would always get pizza. A menu? We didn’t need one. We never deviated from that plan. This was our thing. Mostly we would order plain cheese or pepperoni. Garlic bread, covered in cheese of course, sometimes came before the pizza. He would have beer, I would guzzle soda like Coca-Cola was going out of business.

Dad was always friendly with the waitresses having been a regular before we started this pattern of “Pizza Fridays.” Then, what always seemed cool to me way back when, was Sonny coming out of the kitchen to hang out and shoot the breeze with my dad. It made me feel important and welcomed. The cool part is even back in those days, as a youngster that was into movies, it was as if dad was someone from a Hollywood gangster film talking to the Italian chef. Sonny always talked to his customers, and to me, that is something that matters, simply being a nice guy. The free ice cream he gave me after my pizza helped too.

After Sonny had passed, his daughter Maria kept it the same way. Cooking the classics, keeping up with that great pizza, and most of all, the friendliness. She greets customers just like her father did, stopping by tables to chat and to “see how the family is doing.”

Another generation has experienced the hospitality that Maria shows. She knows my brothers and my sister because our father carried on the tradition with them. Some of my friends, who I had no idea she knew, are friendly with her and it shows what a small world this really is. Sonny would certainly be proud of his daughter, and diners appreciate feeling like they matter.

To this day, those memories have stayed with me and I remain a semi-regular, stopping in for dinner here and there, and picking up pizza some weekends. But it saddened me to hear that Sonny’s will be closing at the beginning of September.

Maria mentioned that she is currently looking for a new place and if Sonny’s does re-open, I hope you all go to this restaurant that has, for the most part, flown under the radar, and experience firsthand what Sonny’s regulars already know. This is a great place. Sonny’s will be missed.

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