If bigger is better, than Westchester Square has been home to the city’s best slice of pizza for 25 years.
Ljubo’s Pizzeria, which is known for its mammoth slices that dwarf the paper plates they are served on, is turning 25 this year.
To celebrate, owner Ljubo Kocovic held a birthday party on Sunday, September 26, in the shop at 15 Westchester Square. Clowns were there for the kids, and free Cokes were given out to anyone who could manage to eat two slices of the pizza.
“It was hard work and a struggle,” Kocovic said. “But thank God we’ve made it 25 years.”
Kocovic opened Ljubo’s (that “j” is silent) Pizzeria in 1985 with his wife after emigrating to the country from Montenegro in 1979.
Kocovic had been a cook in Montenegro, so he jumped at the chance when his brother, who owns the space, asked him if he’d like to open a pizzeria in the building.
“In the beginning I though it was going to be easy. I thought, pizza is so simple, it’s like pizza and cooking have nothing to do with one another,” he said. “But when I opened the place, I realized it was completely different. We had a very rough beginning.”
At the time Kocovic was 25. He and his wife, who was 23, were the only two employees in the shop.
They sometimes had to throw dough, cook pies and handle customers from 8 a.m. until midnight, but as time went on and the family expanded, Kocovic got some much needed help from his four children, who range in age from 7 to 23.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today,” Kocovic said. “Now I’ve got two guys helping out in the kitchen, but my kids are still helping out too.”
After 25 years in business Kocovic has learned the tricks of making the perfect dough and ensuring that only the best and freshest ingredients make it onto his pizzas, but he said it is still very hard work operating the shop, which is one of only two pizzerias in Westchester Square.
The pizzeria has been serving the massive slices since opening, but Kocovic said it’s not the gimmick that has led the joint to outlast dozens of other pizza shops that have come and gone during Ljubo’s 25 year stay. He feels he has some advice he learned while cooking in the old country to thank for his success.
“A manager in the restaurant always told me ‘Be loyal to the customer. If you treat them right they will come back,’” he said.
“Being here 25 years is like a dream come true. I never thought it would happen in a million years. We’re hoping to continue this and to make sure to satisfy everybody.”