HOMER, N.Y. – Shortly after graduating high school, Paul Hess decided to take a job making sandwiches at a pizza shop on North Main Street in Cortland.
30 years ago, he never imagined he would end up owning the place.
Last month, he and his wife, Maureen, were handed ownership of Little Italy Pizzeria in Homer, a beloved eatery located on South Main Street in the village where Hess has been the manager for roughly three decades.
Opened in 1984 by Nunzio Giordano, an Italian immigrant, the restaurant has been a staple of the Cortland community for years.
For Hess, taking over ownership of the shop wasn’t necessarily in the cards. Giordano has three sons, but all of them moved to Florida, Hess says.
“I originally thought one of the boys would take over,” he says. “They all pretty much opted out and wanted to head south. This was the next natural thing for me, and we jumped on the opportunity.”
The restaurant specializes in New York Style pizza, though they also make a Sicilian with a thick crust.
Some years ago, they began offering specialty pizzas—meat lover’s, chicken bacon ranch, tomato and basil—to appeal to a wider variety of customers, he says.
Hess says he has no plans to expand the restaurant or make any major renovations—perhaps he took some advice from a reviewer on Yelp, who recently wrote, “A year and a half later, and nothing has changed. And that’s a good thing.”
In a few years, Hess plans to bring in some extra help. For now, his young daughter, Janelle, takes an order over the phone while Hess chats with a customer.
“Right now, we’re both here pretty much 7 days a week,” Hess says of he and his wife. “Down the road, you gotta find the right person, the right people, which is tough in this day and age to find the right core of people to run a business, but we’ll get there. It’s just gonna take time to get the right person.”