Reopening day at Danny’s Pizza and Hoagies got a boost from the guy who first opened the doors back in 1959.
“Last night, he was cutting dough and today he was making hoagies and checking the ovens and telling us what we needed to do,” said Janice Rowsick of her husband, 86-year-old Dan Rowsick Sr. “So he’s retired, but he’s not really retired. We won’t let him.”
The Bethel Park landmark was back in business as of Aug. 15, much to the enjoyment of longtime fans, some of whom have been known to travel from other states for Danny’s cuisine. The restaurant was closed for the past three months.
And fans will be glad to know the restaurant’s new proprietor is using the original recipes for pizza sauce, hoagie oil and the like.
“I got all of that straight from him,” Alex Hvizdos said of Danny’s founder, who is his uncle. “There are three people in the world who know those recipes.”
Alex and his mother, Michele Hvizdos – she’s Janice’s sister – now own the restaurant. He and his sister, Aimee, who’s taking care of promotions and marketing, both graduated from Peters Township High School, in 2013 and 2009, respectively.
Aimee’s goal is to continue Danny’s tradition as a place for making memories, and she has her favorite.
“I’d come up here after church with my aunt,” she recalled. “I would take big hunks of provolone cheese and my Lemon Blend and sit in the big cooler in back, because I thought that was the coolest place to be. So it’s cool to see it kind of come full circle, and now we’re running the ins and outs.”
Her mother has fond memories, too.
“I used to come here in high school,” Michele Hvizdos said. “I went to Baldwin, and after every Friday night game, we’d come out here, and that’s when the drive-in was here. You could line up your cars with the trucks, and we’d sit there and watch a movie. You couldn’t hear it very well, but we could watch it.”
She also worked at the restaurant at various points, and her husband, David, did so when he was attending law school.
Dan’s memories of the restaurant extend back six decades, to when he was in his mid-20s and supporting his family.
“When Dan started it, it was him. Everything was him. He made everything up himself, and he worked really hard,” his wife said. “He’s been working hard ever since. We retired and we live on a farm, and when you live on a farm, there’s always work.”
The couple live in North Strabane Township, and one day their nephew paid a visit.
“Alex showed up at our home with a business plan,” Janice recalled. “He said, ‘Uncle Dan, I’d like to bring it back to what you had, the same recipes and everything. My whole idea is to do it, be successful and make you proud that we brought the business back.’”
Dan, who looks as if he’s at least a few decades younger than what it said on his driver’s license, liked the idea with regard to the business he started.
“I was going to close it up,” he said. “But I thought, well, everything’s here. We might as well start and give Alex a chance to see if that’s what he wants to do.”
Preparing for the reopening took a while.
“There are little things you don’t think of right off the bat, like getting the menu put together and the recipes. The shop was in good shape, and that was kind of a great way to start off,” Aimee said.
Her brother agreed.
“There were some freezers that had to be moved out. Those were kind of heavy,” he said. “But for the most part, everything has been running for us pretty well.”
Folks who were disappointed by Danny’s closing greeted reopening day with enthusiasm, as the first four-plus hours saw a steady influx of customers.
“I think the only way I can describe it is a controlled chaos,” Alex said. “We had people standing at the door at 10 to 11 waiting for us to open.”
Janice recalled when she went with Alex to drop him off for his freshman year at Slippery Rock University, she asked him what he wanted to do.
“He said, ‘I don’t know, Aunt Jan, but I want to be an entrepreneur,’” Janice said. “So he has reached the point that he was heading for when he started college.”