New pizza place opens in Eastridge

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Original Article by Wade Tyler Millward

About two weeks into his new location in Eastridge Mall, pizza franchise owner Pat Slovonic Sr. is still showing customers how to hold a pizza.

“A lot of people ask us if we can cut the slice,” Slovonic said. “We show them, you have to fold it in half. That’s real New York-style pizza.”

Slovonic’s restaurant, Italian Village Pizza, is the latest food offering inside the Gastonia mall.

He has run a location at the Hickory mall for about 20 months. The franchise, which has about 30 locations nationwide, wants to grow in North Carolina.

Slovonic, 52, said he wasn’t ready to retire after about 30 years of working at his brother’s plastics fabrication company, BAW Plastics, based in the Pittsburgh area.

He wanted to be closer to his three grandchildren. The fact that he had to buy a snowblower to maintain his Practice Tee Golf Center golf course near Pittsburgh also pushed him to move.

He talked with a longtime friend involved in Italian Village, Frank Veltri. Veltri had previously partnered with Slovonic to buy the golf center from a group who owned it for 23 years, according to Allegheny County, Pa., property records.

Slovonic decided to get into the food business.

“I’m not going to stop and retire,” he said. “I believe in the brand.”

Eastridge leadership approached him to open a Gastonia location. He has his eye out for location No. 3, saying that a store in a strip mall might be best.

In the meantime, he said he’s going to work with the mall to get his franchise’s name out there and build a strong takeout business.

Italian Village has signed a lease for five years, mall leasing manager Steve Stout said.

Another newcomer, Running with Scissors, has signed a one-year lease for Eastridge, which is the salon’s second location. The other one is in downtown Gastonia.

Woo’s Too embroidery shop and boutique opened earlier this year, along with Xtreme Xcapes escape room and a Dunkin’ Donuts outside of the mall.