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Owner brings a real passion to every pizza pie

WALK into Garaffa’s Pizza in the morning, and you’re greeted with the homey smell of rising dough.

Owner Ricky Garaffa gets in early to start making it from scratch for both the round pizzas and the square Sicilian ones he sells for lunch and dinner at his new business in Falmouth Shopping Center.

He bought the location at 175 Cambridge St. last December from the owner of Napoleta Pizza, who had retired after running that business for 40 years. He gave away the freezer and deep fryer, which he didn’t need; made repairs; and gave the space a makeover.

Garaffa’s opened its doors Feb. 17, and it’s become so popular that waits of an hour or more aren’t uncommon, he said. Some customers are Napoleta fans, and some are people Garaffa had donated food to or sold his signature sauce. Others are new.

“Customers tell me they can taste the quality and freshness,” said Garaffa. “I’ve had police officers from New York tell me it reminds them of being around Italian families back home.”

That’s not too surprising. Garaffa uses a crushed-tomato-based meat sauce recipe that his grandfather, Antonio Garaffa, brought with him when he emigrated to the U.S. from Sicily in 1910.

Ricky Garaffa visited his grandfather often when he was growing up, and whenever he said he didn’t like something, his grandfather told him it was because he hadn’t tried it. That inspired Garaffa’s Pizza’s slogan, “you try you like!”

The restaurant is a second career for Garaffa, who had owned and operated Superior Painting and Remodeling in Fredericksburg for 18 years. The recession took a toll on the business, but he was driven to help others less fortunate than himself by preparing food for them.

“Life’s a journey,” he said. “We have a choice of getting bitter or better. It helps us to comfort others who are going through tough times.”

One of the things Garaffa made—and gave away—was his grandfather’s meat sauce. Pretty soon, people were asking if they could buy it, and encouraging him to open a restaurant.

“I was selling two cases of 32-ounce jars at a time,” he said. “They were buying it as gifts for other people. That told me that I had something special.”

Then, Garaffa said, the Lord gave him a passion to create and perfect a pizza dough recipe. It took him five years of experimentation using the six-quart mixer he had at home.

“I lived and breathed making dough until I perfected it,” he said.

The result is a bready pizza dough that forms the mainstay of the menu at Garaffa’s Pizza. The 12-inch round cheese pizzas start at $10, and the square 12-inch Sicilians go for $15. Additional toppings are $1.95 each. They include extra cheese, pepperoni and meatballs—but no anchovies.

“I don’t do anchovies,” Garaffa said. “Only a handful of customers have asked for them.”

Popular choices include the “Brooklyn,” a pepperoni pizza named for one of Garaffa’s daughters. Among his favorites is the “Chef’s Choice,” which includes extra sauce, pepperoni, green peppers and onions.

“The white pizza is also

a big hit,” he said.

Garaffa doesn’t do fries or wings, but his meatballs are so popular that customers often order a box to go after they finish their meal. The restaurant also serves such weekly pasta specials as lasagna, rigatoni or baked spaghetti/penne, all of which come with a salad.

Meatball subs, salads and

a trio of desserts—cannoli, cheesecake and lemon Italian cream cake—round out the menu, which is limited by choice.

“When I see a small menu like mine,” Garaffa said, “My first thought is passion and freshness. How many chefs do they have? There are other things I can cook, but this is where my passion is.”

Garaffa’s Pizza is a family operation, and is closed on Sundays so the Garaffas can attend church and relax together.

“It’s a sweet situation,” said Garaffa, who has eight children. “If you let any one thing control you, you’re missing out on life.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407