Rod Aguillon started washing dishes at Arcuri’s Pizza & Salad
in Cos Cob at age 17. He was outspoken, worked hard and became a partner with
Jamie Arcuri when he expanded the family restaurant to a second location in
Port Chester in 2010. In March he completed the final paperwork to make the 46
North Main St. pizzeria his own.
When the transfer was finalized, Aguillon gradually started
advertising the restaurant’s new name, Roddy’s Pizza & Salad, with a banner
across the awning, car signs atop delivery vehicles, a lit sign in the window
and redesigned pizza boxes.
It is with some trepidation that Aguillon has taken over because,
although he knows how to handle the operation of a restaurant from the culinary
and service point of view, he has never before been responsible for all the
paperwork and accounting.
“It’s very exciting, but I’m very nervous,” he said. “I don’t
want to mess up.” All the time he’s spent trying to make the shop succeed and
therefore has missed spending time with his family on holidays and for other
gatherings, “it’s got to be for something,” he said.
If Aguillon didn’t agree to take it over, Arcuri was planning to
close the Port Chester location due to failing health. So Aguillon, now 35,
mulled the pros and cons, received encouragement from family members, staff and
other Port Chester restauranteurs and decided to give it a shot.
“We believe in Port Chester,” said the Mexican-born immigrant who
came to this country at age 11. “We believe we can make it.”
During the transition, business has dropped off 20% because of
customers’ uncertainty about what was happening, but Aguillon feels positive
about his strong customer base and thinks in time he can build it back up.
The location on a busy downtown street corner with lots of foot
traffic, his excellent crew plus the added support of his father and other
family members who take orders and make deliveries when needed gave him the
confidence to move forward. He said Eli and his cousin Ricardo have been with
him for three years now and “it feels good to know they have your back.”
A new person managing the building in which the pizzeria is
located as of Jan. 1 also made a difference. For the first four years Arcuri’s
was at this Main Street location, Aguillon estimates it was only open three
years and 2 ½ months as a result of an electrical fire in another store,
Hurricane Sandy and constant shutoffs of power and gas as the building was
modified. “It’s hard to keep a customer base with so many interruptions,”
Aguillon’s philosophy as a restauranteur is “be nice or be gone.”
“We like people,” he said. “If something is right that we do, we want to know
about it. If something is wrong, we definitely want to know about it. We’re
here for you guys.”
Aguillon and his staff are always courteous and pleasant, making
them a pleasure to deal with. Everyone pitches in and does everything. He even
makes deliveries himself.
The new restauranteur enjoys the hustle and bustle of the
downtown location and waves to customers as they pass by on the street. Aguillon
is proud to say that one day he had several members of the Port Chester Police
Department, including the chief, eating at his pizzeria and that in general the
police are regular customers. Yet he knows there is a lot of competition, many
eating places in town for people to choose from.
“There’s a lot of good people in this town,” he said. “It’s a
really nice, colorful place” and always full of surprises. When they open in
the morning, “we don’t know where the day is going to go.”
Takeout, and especially delivery, are a large part of Arcuri’s
and now Roddy’s business. But over time the small restaurant itself, which
seats 20, has gotten busier as well.
Challenges and planned changes
Aguillon said “trying to be different while staying the same” is
a major challenge he sees for the future. He explained what that means: “sticking
with our roots, what has made us popular so far, while still coming up with new
stuff to make.”
The newly designed pizza boxes, which have a similar logo as the
old ones, specifically state: “New name, same great food, same great people.”
Also to that end, a new menu is in the works which will be 80-90%
the same. “Customers like what we have,” he said. “We will add some stuff, a
couple new salads, sandwiches and pizzas and get rid of some we feel are not
going a lot from the original menu. We are also going to tweak some things.”
For example, a regular customer suggested a cheeseburger pizza
which the staff has been experimenting with and has gone over well on a slice
basis so will be added to the new menu either with or without bacon.
Another new pizza being tested is colaccia which is topped with
artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella, garlic, basil and sliced tomatoes.
Getting Roddy’s websites to go live is a priority as is changing
the signage to permanently reflect the name change. The new signage will
include a spotlight on the awning to provide more visibility.
On the inside, lit menu boards will be replacing the current
cardboard ones that fill a good portion of the wall space, a bench and another
TV will be added and a section of wall under the current TV will be brushed with
a special paint to create a chalkboard for kids.
With its bright red, white and green color scheme, Arcuri’s wore
the colors of the Italian flag on its sleeve, and that will remain the same.
Obviously pizza and salad will continue to be the specialties at
Roddy’s Pizza & Salad as they were for Arcuri’s. Buffalo chicken pizza, my
favorite, continues to be the super seller followed by the new Big Mac pizza by
the slice, the chicken bacon ranch, chicken parm and pepperoni.
Buffalo chicken ($4 per slice) has chunks of chicken, spicy
Buffalo sauce, bleu cheese dressing and is topped with shopped scallions. I’m
quite sure Arcuri’s was the first pizzeria in town to serve it. Aguillon
pointed out that the pizza oven creates crunchy rather than soft pizza, which
generally is a plus. However, in the past week I ordered a slice of Buffalo
chicken pizza and was disappointed not by the flavor but because it was too
crunchy to the point where the crust was hard.
The oven is a holdover from Il Pizzaiolo, the pizzeria that
preceded Arcuri’s, and possibly from Marini’s Pizzeria and Vinny’s Pizza which
came before it and make up the long line of pizzerias at this location.
The pizza slices at Roddy’s ($2.75 cheese, $3.25 with two toppings,
$4 specialty) as well as the salads are gigantic. A small salad when served in
the restaurant fills a large white bowl and is more than enough for one person.
The standard hand-tossed pizza is neither thin nor thick but
somewhere in the middle. Thin pizza or double dough is available upon request.
The menu lists 32 different toppings you can have on a pizza
which comes in three sizes starting at $5.95 for a 10” cheese, $8.50 for a 12”
and $13.50 for a 16”.
Besides the Buffalo chicken, Nanna’s pizza is another one of the
20 specialty pizzas I can rave about. It’s made with juicy plum tomatoes, fresh
mozzarella, fresh garlic and fresh basil ($18.95 for a 16” pie, $4 per slice).
Arcuri’s is also known for its house creamy balsamic vinaigrette,
a secret recipe that only Aguillon and a few people at Arcuri’s in Greenwich
know how to make. It is written in his contract with Arcuri that he can
continue using it but cannot teach anyone else how to make it. A good house
dressing obviously helps make the salads pop. You can purchase the dressing from
Roddy’s for $5.95 a pint.
In addition, Roddy’s will continue baking its own delicious bread
made from pizza dough which is served with all the salads, 14 of which are
currently on the menu. It is also available by the loaf upon request for $2.
The Generations salad (grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, roasted
peppers and avocado at $7.95 small, $9.95 large) is the most popular, said
Aguillon. My favorite is the Antipasto (mixed romaine and green leaf blend,
three types of olives, pepperoni, Genoa salami, imported provolone,
pepperoncini and croutons at $7.25 small, $9.25 large). Another excellent
option is the tossed salad, filled with a variety of fresh vegetables and
topped with gorgonzola or mozzarella cheese ($6.25 and $7.75).
Most of the salads have the same base. “We are able to make a lot
of things from the same ingredients,” said Aguillon.
Of those I’ve tried, the only salad I’m not crazy about is the Classic
Caesar ($4.95 and $6.95). Although it’s made with fresh romaine, grated
parmesan, shredded Romano and house made Caesar dressing, it just didn’t bowl
Pita’s Pita, named for Rod’s wife of four years, Lupita, whom he
met as a customer in his restaurant, is another specialty. Listed under “Hot
Sandwiches and Heroes,” it includes grilled chicken, bacon, avocado, lettuce,
tomato and mayo stuffed in pita ($7.42).
Roddy’s also serves 2-3 homemade soups which rotate regularly.
Currently they are pasta fagioli, chicken and lentil, with cream of broccoli
and lobster bisque among the other offerings during the colder months. We recently
ordered the lentil, which brought an enormous bowl of savory, tomato-based soup
filled with lentils which I highly recommend.
Besides several varieties of pizza, the display case at Roddy’s
is filled with calzones, strombolis, rolls and garlic knots that all look
Sandwiches of all sorts are another large portion of the
menu—from burgers, to burger wraps (I enjoyed the taco variety ($6.95) once the
hot sauce on the table was added), to hot wraps, cold wraps, cold sandwiches
and heroes and hot sandwiches and heroes. All are served with chips. Fries can
be added for an extra $2.
The meatball sandwich on a roll ($4.95) was tasty, the meatballs
having some spiciness to them rather than just tasting bland.
Breakfast burritos are served all day ($3.25 for egg and cheese
wrapped in a tortilla to $5.95 for sausage and fried long hots).
A selection of appetizers, mostly fried, is served with your
choice of sauce: marinara, honey mustard, BBQ, spicy BBQ, ranch or bleu cheese.
Pastas, entrées, fish and fries are also on the menu. In recent
days I have only tried the Penne Calabrese (fresh broccoli, pepperoni,
mozzarella sautéed in marinara sauce at $12.95) and was not overly impressed.
It tasted fine and the penne was cooked just right, but there was too much
sauce and it did not look appetizing.
Two refrigerator cases are filled with a variety of sodas, iced
teas and energy drinks in cans and bottles to choose from.
Currently an easel on the sidewalk advertises Roddy’s five
varieties of Italian ice. Besides that, tres leches, cannoli made to order and
house made chocolate chip cookies make up the dessert selections.
An enthusiastic owner
Roddy’s is a welcoming place with a modest, but attractive décor—large
interesting tiles on the floor and a rustic tile counter and front contrasting
with the red, white and green walls. The six square wood tables which are
showing signs of age could easily be spruced up with Italian-flavored plastic tablecloths.
Roddy’s is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday,
11 a.m. to 11 p.m., later if there are still customers, Friday and Saturday.
Parking is paid until 9 p.m. on the street or in the municipal lot around the
corner off Adee Street.
All major credit and debit cards as well as Apple Pay are
accepted and there is no minimum. There is a $2 delivery charge for those who
don’t meet the $11 minimum.
Although he takes Mondays off, Rod Aguillon regularly and
enthusiastically puts in 12- to 13-hour days, whatever it takes to make a go of
the first restaurant he can truly call his own.