The following story is the fourth in a series on how Monroe’s restaurants are weathering the coronavirus pandemic.
380 Monroe Turnpike
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Closed on Mondays
MONROE, CT — The coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on small businesses, including restaurants, which come and go even in the best of times. If any restaurant can make it through this health crisis, it’s Jennie’s Pizzeria.
“We’re looking forward to a good recovery,” said Al DeSimone III, who owns the restaurant at 380 Monroe Turnpike with his brother Richard. “We have a good name, a good reputation and a loyal following. We’ve been in business 86 years. We’re Fairfield County’s oldest pizza restaurant and the 17th oldest in the United States.”
As essential businesses, restaurants are allowed to have curbside takeout and delivery only.
“Unfortunately 45 percent of our business was lost: our dining room, catering and a lunch program for the Catholic schools and the day cares,” DeSimone said. “There is no school and no social events. Our takeout is holding, but we’re trying to keep our heads above water with the expenses.”
Jennie’s donates to “practically every organization in town.” The restaurant has been a sponsor of Masuk High School’s prom and post prom since relocating to town from Bridgeport in 1998. It sponsors two-to-three Little League Baseball teams a year, gives discounts to youth sports teams, and still makes food donations to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.
The community board inside Jennie’s Pizzeria is covered with thank you notes from townspeople showing their appreciation. Now, they are showing it by frequenting the restaurant for takeout.
“We have a good loyal following,” DeSimone said. “Our customers, they say it all. They thank us all the time for being open.”
He said Jennie’s also realizes how difficult the pandemic can be on them.
“Right now, because of the situation with the coronavirus, we put out a good family special,” DeSimone said. “It’s very reasonable and people appreciate it.”
The Stay at Home Specials are a choice of three entrees that serve families of four for $45. Among them are:
Rich’s Baked Mac & Cheese: one tray of baked mac and cheese, one quart of the house-made soup of the day or a tossed salad with a choice of dressing, a dozen garlic knots, four chocolate chip cookies, two 20-ounce soft drinks and a bottle of house wine (cabernet or chardonnay).
Chicken Parmigiana: chicken parmigiana, penne with tomato sauce, tossed salad with a choice of dressing, a dozen garlic knots, four chocolate chip cookies, two 20-ounce soft drinks and a bottle of house wine (cabernet or chardonnay).
Two Large Pizzas: One large cheese pizza, one large cheese pizza with one topping (specialty toppings included), tossed salad with one quart of the house-made soup of the day, four chocolate chip cookies, two 20-ounce soft drinks and a bottle of house wine (cabernet or chardonnay).
Plans to expand
Jennie’s is taking extra precautions to safeguard the health of their customers and staff.
“We’ve got one of the cleanest kitchens in the state of Connecticut,” DeSimone said. “We always have.”
In addition to its employees washing their hands and wearing gloves, DeSimone said the sanitizing includes the pens people use to sign their credit card receipts.
“We have a container for cleaned pens and one for used ones,” he said. “We sanitize the door handles and the counters every half hour.”
Once things turn back to normal, Jennie’s Pizzeria plans to be better than ever. The restaurant recently acquired additional space for a dining room, a lounge room with full liquor and a private party room to accommodate up to 50 people.
DeSimone said the plans were in the works, before the coronavirus hit.
Of his patrons, he said, “we want to thank them for their support and their loyalty, and we’re looking forward to the future with our new endeavor.”