10 o’clock on Friday night at the corner of West Clay and Faitoute was quiet. Ordering three plain slices, Mimi’s owner Paul Minitelli pulled out the dough, spread the tomato sauce, sprinkled the cheese, and put a pie in the oven.
Even though the number of days (and nights) that customers can grab a slice or Italian ice at Mimi’s is down to two, Paul carried on, business as usual, serving the community.
Sunday, August 5th, will be the last day for Mimi’s in its current framework. For the record, it is pronounced “MIH-meez”, not “MEE-meez”. After years – decades actually – of working on developing the property, an application for a 14-condo development was presented and approved by the Municipal Land Use Board in April of this year (link).
The process of renovation is set to start this month with a target completion date of late 2019. Mimi’s is set to open again next year but for now, will close this Sunday.
While waiting for the pie to be baked, Paul took some time to reminisce about his and his family’s journey throughout the years. Even though the future is exciting, there is the bittersweet moment of realization that a chapter in the Minitelli family, as well as Roselle Park, is ending.
“I’ve been making pies since I was 10-years-old,” Paul said as the warm summer evening carried the smells of cheese and sauce and dough merging into one.
Asked how many pizzas he has created, Paul pondered a bit and said, “You know I was thinking that the other day. How many pizzas have I made in my life? I’ve been making them since I was 10-years-old.”
Doing some quick math, it was estimated that Paul has made over 100,000 pizza pies over the four decades he has been a pizzaiolo. He laughed, with his eyes widened, “That’s a lot of pizzas.”
Paul talked about moving into the house on West Clay as a child next door to the pizzeria decades ago.
“My grandmother owned both properties, the pizza [place] and house,” Paul said, recalling that the pizzeria used to be a pork store way back when, “Then Mimi, the original Mimi, he rented it from my grandmother and put the pizza place in here in the early 60s.”
Giving some more history, Paul added, “Mimi was this guy. He and his wife used to run it – Mimi and Donna and then my mother bought it off of him. That’s how it all started.”
Ever since that moment 42 years ago in 1976, Paul and his family have been feeding the community. Pizza, calzones, pepperoni bread, sausage bread, and even pizza dough. He remarked, “I’m going to be 50 in two weeks. I’ve been here every day of my life.”
About five years later, Paul’s father started selling Italian ices in 1981. Paul said, “There used to be a line from that window down to the corner when he first started that. It was unbelievable. The ices were, like, 30 cents for a small.”
Paul remembered that in the 90s his father had plans made for potential development, “I thought the day was never going to get here.”
But now, as another day came to an end with four generations of Minitelli’s on the corner of West Clay and Faitoute, Paul felt a bit of nostalgia mixed with memories he wanted to share, “I’m excited. It’s just going to be a big change, you know, but it’s all for the good. But I remember that this building is so old that in the winter, you’d feel the draft. People would think ‘Oh, you’ve got the oven in there it’s warm.'”
He shook his head as he laughed, “Nah, it wasn’t. But I’ll be back, both the pizza and Italian ices.”
As the pie came out and Paul used the slicer to make the customary four cuts, he talked about the reality of the upcoming change in his family’s story, “I’m only going to have plain pies left by Sunday. The toppings are all gone. I’m already down to mushrooms, pepperoni, and olives.”
Close to a million slices, thousands of scoops of popular flavored ices, a loyal clientele, new customers, donations to organizations and events, winner of Roselle Park’s ‘Best Pizza Around’ contest, and recognized ‘Business Of The Month’ from the municipality, Mimi’s Pizza & Real Homemade Italian Ices will be serving its namesake until the open sign shuts off on the window of the building many have come to know and love for the last time.
By the way, those three plain slices went within seconds of going through the door of my house. As good as it was, it felt a bit sentimental having a slice of Roselle Park’s history.