By Douglas Yu
It’s probably more appropriate than flattery to call Leone’s Sub and Pizza in Somerville a landmark in the neighborhood: Its everlasting quality of meatballs; signature Sicilian-styled square pizzas that were once delivered to Chris Evans live on ABC News; owners and staff who are never shy of sharing fun conversations with their customers; and most importantly, a restaurant where serving the community means more than serving their food.
Nick Ruccolo, a partner at Leone’s, is constantly to be found greeting customers, talking about things that are only heard between intimate friends. Not surprisingly, Leone’s never lacks customers who have been around for decades.
“Leone’s was started in 1954 by my brother-in-law’s parents. They took on an adventure and decided to try it out. 60 years later, we are still here,” Ruccolo said. “We haven’t changed anything in 60 years.”
Thirty-five years ago, Leone’s first started their square pizzas, which later on became a signature item at the store. In 1978, the 22-year-old Ruccolo joined Leone’s after he finished college with a degree in Business.
During his time at Leone’s, he received positive comments from the community and old customers who moved away from Somerville.
“We send food to as far as Hawaii, Florida and California,” Ruccolo said. “We sent our food to Arizona once when the Super Bowl was celebrated there.”
Among all the items that are served at Leone’s, the meatballs are one of the most popular foods here, according to Ruccolo. “I sent meatballs to a gentleman in Florida. He FedExed meatballs with sauce, so his sister could have a try. That cost $250 to send them,” Ruccolo said.
Joao Garcia, the manager at Leone’s, enjoys his working relationship with Ruccolo as well as serving customers. Even though there are challenges, such as the heat, which make it feel difficult to work at a pizza place in summer.
“I like when I make a sandwich for a nice customer and see them smile. They get what they want, what they have been eating for 30, 40 years,” Garcia said. “As a Somerville landmark, the relationship between people behind the counter and the people in front of the counter has never changed.”
Leone’s is also famous for delivering pizza for Captain America on air. During one ABC news live show, Chris Evans was surprised with three boxes of Leone’s square pizzas and subs. The super hero screamed with joy, “It’s Leone’s! It’s Leone’s!”
When recalling that experience, Ruccolo said that he got a call from one of the directors of ABC News and he promised to pay Ruccolo to close his store for a day to go to the show in New York.
“My concern was my customers, so I said to my brother, ‘why don’t you go? And I’ll stay at the store’.” Ruccolo said. “But I served Chris Evans quite a few times at the store.”
Ruccolo said that he treats celebrities just like any other customers. “I don’t ask for autographs. I just talk to them as a person,” Ruccolo said.
Leone’s is celebrating its 60th anniversary in business this year. As a family-run business, Leone’s makes many of its customers feel at home too. Buster Cooper, a Somerville native has been a customer of Leone’s for more than 20 years. Cooper said, “Leone’s is like a family kitchen. It serves the meals your mother cooks for you all the time.”