GLEN ROCK, N.J. — Francesca Pizza owner Sal Reina had just finished slicing the third pie to come out of his Glen Rock shop’s brick oven Thursday morning when the mail carrier arrived.
“This is it,” Reina said, tearing into the long and narrow cardboard box he’d been waiting for all week.
Reina, wearing pepperoni pizza-themed Converse on his feet, carefully unrolled a banner with a picture of a soccer stadium and others of two employees’ faces.
The stadium represents Glen Rock High School, and the workers are the captains of the 2016 “Coppa Francesca” tournament.
For every eight years that the Rock Road shop has been open, Reina has organized a soccer game that begins with an NFL-style draft in Francesca’s. It ends with another ball signed by the winning team mounted 15 inches apart from the last on the wall above the pizza case.
The tournament is what business in Francesca’s is all about.
“It’s the perfect balance between serious and fun,” said Reina before hanging the poster on the side wall of his shop. “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for all year.”
It wasn’t always fun and games.
Reina was 26 when he opened Francesca’s in 2008, after three miserable years at a desk job in New York City.
He never minded going into work at a Long Island pizza shop in his hometown, though, even after a long day at the office.
“I never didn’t look forward to going to the restaurant,” he said. “I was so much happier there.”
Reina spent much of 2008 earning the respect of his older Francesca’s employees. He opened and closed the shop each day. He gave rides to any employee that needed one home.
Business at Francesca's picked up with every passing year because of the work that its owner put in.
“I want to give my customers the best service and the best quality for their money,” he said. “I know people can go anywhere so I take business here extremely seriously.
“Because of the community support I can pay my guys and give them raises each year. They provide for their families so whenever I feel pressure to do well, it’s for them… I think about them,” Reina said.
Reina knows what it's like to work the Friday night shift. He still wakes up early to get the ovens going and even try a slice of his own plain pie each and every day for breakfast.
The least he can do for his staff, he said, is make Francesca's somewhere they want to be.