Dartmouth family finds success with Westport pizza restaurant
September 22, 2004
Hang out in Main Road’s Village Pizza on a summer weekend night, and you’d swear that every third person in Westport is eating ‘Italian’. The place is humming.
Young men and women, with the ease of a drill team, stand ready to take orders behind the counter, a straight six steps from the front door. As one of them steps back to prepare an order, another pops up to take the next. And in the middle of all this choreography is owner Tony Ferreira. The boss spins back and forth between the stainless steel pizza oven a few feet behind the counter and a list of orders that are coming in by phone and over the counter.Tacked up at eye level three paces from the oven, they are lined up as neatly as floats ready to enter a parade and Mr. Ferreira, the grand marshal, makes sure they’re dispatched quickly. Efficiency is everything on a busy night and this operation is field tested and seasoned.
Ferreira, who seems to know everyone entering the door, will have been holding court here for 25 years come May, 2005. “My wife and I used to enjoy driving to Westport on Sundays from our home in Dartmouth,” said Mr. Ferreira. “I’d always been interested in the seafood business since my in-laws owned fishing boats. Then, we noticed this business for sale and since I’ve always loved to cook, we thought we’d give it a try.” He will have been married to Kathy, his high school sweetheart, for twenty five years this October. Many Wesporters think he’s married to Village Pizza as well.
In the early years of their marriage, they were raising a family plus a business. “I was a stay-at-home dad till early afternoon, diapers and all!” said Ferreira with his ever-present smile, “then I’d go in and take over from Kathy. Those were long days for both of us.”
Diaper days now a distant memory, their college age children, Nicholas, 21, and Kristen, 19, are on the front lines at the ordering counter. “They’re my right hand force,” says Ferreira with pride. Nicholas has a dentistry career in mind, while Kristen, whose sights are set on nursing, hasn’t totally dismissed a future at Village Pizza.
For long stretches of time in the early evening, everything in the joint is in motion. Customers buzz in and out of the twenty by thirty foot emporium with the familiarity of bees returning to their hive. T-shirts and flip flops, overalls and workbooks, their outfits differ, but they’ve got the same thing on their minds, tasty food, delivered hot and ready to eat. Some customers, with an array of calzones precariously perched atop several boxes of pizza, can barely see over the spicy payload as they aim for the exit.
Every so often, as when the eye of a storm passes overhead, everything quiets down, and the help braces themselves for the next wave of hungry customers. In this “to go” atmosphere, Tony Ferreira is the master of the sixty second conversation. “I love people!” says Ferriera.
Sit for five minutes in Village Pizza and you’ll get ample evidence. His hearty ”Hey, howareya?” or “Where are the kids?” greetings are answered by brief informative responses as a customer pays up and hurries home. During these dialogues in one twenty minute stretch, Ferreira found out that “My kid has a temp of 101”, and “My lab had thirteen puppies!” and a host of other tidbits from his “regulars”.
“Our customers come from all over,” says Ferreira, “ South Westport, Adamsville, South Dartmouth, even Little Compton.”
Ferreira himself came to the Westport area from considerably farther. “I was born in the Azores on the island of St. Michael’s and came to New Bedford when I was five. I was raised in my teenage years in Dartmouth, and have lived there ever since.”
Like the pizza, the atmosphere in Village Pizza is layered. The distinct aromas of garlic, onion, fresh bread, and baking dough are layered over the sounds of whirring fans, phones ringing, music piped in from a local station, customers chatting, and the incessant creaking open and thunking shut of the insulated oven door as Ferreira expertly assesses when each pizza is cooked through.
Lately, even the pizza menu has changed. “We’re beginning to feature specialty pizzas like a pesto vegetarian pizza and bruschetta.” The new “white pizza” has been a hit, too. “A friend of mine got me one a while back and I've been hooked since,” said a teenager eating at one of the six small tables lining the perimeter of the eatery.
The Ferreira family has actually bookended the strip of stores in the little mall on Main Road. In addition to Village Pizza, they opened an ice cream window next door (literally). Kathy Ferreira owns Tippy Toez at the other end of the strip and Nicholas and Kristen own and operate Village Video. “Pizza and videos are a real mesh,” says Ferreira. “Customers will come here, order a pepperoni pizza,and say, ‘I’ll be back in ten minutes’, and walk down to rent a video. It’s all about convenience.”
It’s plain to see that scores of the Ferreira family’s customers agree. And they would undoubtedly concur that Tony Ferreira’s love of people is as important an ingredient to Village Pizza’s success as the onions and peppers in his pizzas.