LYNDHURST, N.J.– Retirement just wasn't cutting it for pizza chef Steven Bruno of Lyndhurst, who a decade ago closed Mr. Bruno's Pizzeria after 35 years in the township.
"I got bored doing nothing. I just stayed home," said Bruno, 75. "I don't like hunting or fishing. I stayed on the couch and watched TV."
If almost by fate, the Sicilian-born Bruno is back to doing what he loves best – at a joint that bears his name.
"I don't call it work," Bruno said, wiping away tears while sitting in a booth inside Mr. Bruno's Pizza and Beyond in East Rutherford .
"I tell everyone you have to love what you do," he said. "It's not about the money. I'd work for nothing."
Owner Dave Ligas of Lyndhurst asked him to work two days a week; Bruno works six, at 11-12 hours each.
"I don't mind at all," Bruno said, his accent as thick as his mustache. "I don't feel tired. It's close to home. I look forward to it."
Trained as a barber in his native Partanna, Bruno began making pizza when he came to the U.S. in 1956. He quit school to work full time and honed his craft in Brooklyn before moving to Bergen County.
Bruno's Sicilian pies can't be duplicated, another local pizzeria owner told Daily Voice.
"You have to use good cheese, the right sauce," Bruno said. "That's very important."
He brought his tried and true recipe with him to East Rutherford, saying, "If it's not broke, don't fix it."
And his customers have followed him – more than 50 from Lyndhurst visited the pizzeria in a single day after catching wind of Bruno's return.
"He is a Lyndhurst icon," Michele Marie Siano Gedrimams said.
"He was always genuine and a kind soul," said Sharon Williamson.
"I'm shocked at how many people are coming in now," Bruno added. "It's nice to see that people remember me."
He has no intentions of quitting anytime, either.
"If you take this away from me," he said, "I might drop dead."
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