Rod Aguillon and his daughter, America, 12, hold up a large pepperoni pie at Roddy’s Pizza & Salad on North Main Street. Aguillon recently took over the restaurant previously known as Arcuri’s. 
Claire K. Racine|Westmore News
Rod Aguillon and his daughter, America, 12, hold up a large pepperoni pie at Roddy’s Pizza & Salad on North Main Street. Aguillon recently took over the restaurant previously known as Arcuri’s. Claire K. Racine|Westmore News
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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 said.

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.

Specialties

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 me over.

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).

Extensive menu

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 appetizing.

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.