Westbrook Pizza, Serving it up Greek Style.
By Gina King / Photos by Stephanie Sittnick
If you live in Westbrook or vacationed in the area during the summer, you might have enjoyed a slice or two of Greek style pizza over the years at Westbrook Pizza. With its original location at 21 Essex Street, also locally known as the pizza place on the Westbrook Green, it’s been a staple in the shoreline community since 1945. But during the summer of last year, the small mom and pop restaurant folded up its checkered tablecloths and said goodbye to the center green and moved to its new home: 1551 Boston Post Road; and with it came a proud owner who spent her entire working life dedicated to keeping the Greek style pizza tradition alive.
Kate Lanfair, sole owner of Westbrook Pizza since 2007, spent her teenage years learning everything she could about the pizza business. From the age of 15 she did it all: from cooking, customer service, cleaning, and everything outside and inside the pizza box. And when most young adults at 20 years of age are in college still trying to decide what their majors will be and what kind of job they hope to land after graduation, Kate became a young business owner along with a business partner, buying Westbrook Pizza in 2001. Yet she still continued her full time studies of communications and computer science at Keane State College in New Hampshire and then later at Southern Connecticut State University. “I had joked with the owner that if he ever wanted to sell, I would like to buy it,” said Kate. “I loved Westbrook Pizza…it was a mom and pop place and felt like family.”
The saying “timing is everything” really worked in her favor when the opportunity to relocate to a newer, bigger store in front of Waters Edge presented itself. The original building on Essex Street needed many costly repairs and offered limited space to expand. “It was good timing, I was asked to check out this spot,” says Kate. “I didn’t know if I could get a loan, but I loved the space, started to work with a kitchen designer, and in six months I had a loan, and we did it.”
The grand opening of the new location was June of 2015 and was a positive experience with many loyal customers following her from the green to the bigger, more modern location that also includes outside seating and inside space for many new featured food items, along with the salad and hot food bar.
One of the essential traits she carried over to the new business space from her younger days was absorbing all the roles from the back end of pizza making to greeting customers out front. She has instilled this sense of equality and being part of everything in her loyal and hardworking staff. “Not one person does just one thing…everyone is a cook and everyone is a cleaner,” says Kate. “That way everyone looks at their co-worker as equal. Everyone works towards a common goal, that’s how I learned.”With a small and customer focused staff it feels like family, which in the long run has equaled very little employee turnover. “The employees don’t leave, which is great; we have a lot of fun at work,” explains Kate. Tammy Ponterella, Kitchen Manager is proof of that, as she worked side by side with Kate for the past 22 years and credits her with not only being her boss, but her friend as well. “Kate is a great person, and I like the people I work with,” says Tammy.
And if you order a pizza at Westbrook Pizza and wonder why it takes a few minutes longer than expected, that’s because there is a process behind traditional Greek pan style pizza. “We are one of the few places that offer this style…there are so many steps,” says Kate. “We make our own dough, cut our own cheese, and make the sauces. We are not tossing pies,” explains Kate. It’s all about the dough in traditional Greek style: the making of it, waiting for it to rise, flattening it out, waiting for more rising, spreading it out again, proportioning it according to pizza sizes, oiling the pans, spreading it out in the pans, letting it sit, and then refrigerating the dough before it goes in the oven.
But it’s worth the mouthwatering wait for specialty pizzas like buffalo flavored, zucchini pesto, and the pasta pizza slices with baked ravioli and tortellini tossed on top. “The more we put on, the more people want,” says Kate with a smile. The Taco Pizza is testament to that, a popular favorite with customers for years…red sauce, seasoned beef, lettuce, tomato, complete with salsa and sour cream on the side.
With the bigger space, Westbrook Pizza offers a great salad and hot food bar, serving up grab it and go options like stuffed chicken breasts, home made gnocchi, and Chicken Marsala.
They also offer gluten free options for their sub rolls and pizza crust.
Thinking about that next special event or party? Westbrook Pizza offers catering and party trays for corporate luncheons, baby showers, graduation parties, etc. and will deliver.
With her first child due the end of this summer, it won’t be a far stretch to say that he or she will learn the same solid work ethics that Kate learned from her hardworking parents and will pass along to the next generation. “My child will have a crib in the back of Westbrook Pizza and fall asleep to the sound of the mixer.”
Westbrook Pizza (since 1945) 1551 Boston Post Road