Loretta’s up in flames

Work is done to clean up some of the debris left behind inside Patricia’s Pizza after a rooftop fire erupted early Tuesday morning, on April 22, leaving the establishment’s kitchen in ruins, its dining area with water damage, and a popular Country Club eatery temporarily out of business. - Photo by Walter Pofeldt

A fire in the early morning, while workers were tarring the roof of a popular Country Club eatery, sent flames spewing into the air and left several school lunch programs high and dry.

The fire happened around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 22, at Loretta’s Pizza, at 3276 Layton Avenue, at the corner of Dean Avenue, when it is believed workers accidentally caused a roof to catch fire.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and were able to contain the blaze with only four FDNY personnel sent to Jacobi Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries.  The building was a different story. 

The back of the restaurant, where the kitchen is located, lost its ceiling and was left in ruins. The dining area suffered water damage.

Fortunately for residents, no homes located near the pizza place appear to be damaged, but the hearts of local residents who have frequented the pizza place for almost three decades may need to be mended. 

“We are going to get back in business as soon as we can,” promised co-owner Robert Gaspari, “We had no idea that they were working up there on the roof. We had phoned the landlord about some leaks, and that was it.”

The blaze left a pile of rubble in the kitchen, making it impossible for Loretta’s to operate until repairs are made.  The lack of business does more than hurt local patrons.

“We deal with a lot of area schools,” Gaspari stated. “Right now this fire has put our school lunch program out of service.”

Gaspari said the popular pizzeria services school lunch programs at St. Benedict’s, Villa Maria Academy, Lehman High School, and I.S. 192.

Neighbor Joseph Moblia saw the workers on the roof in the morning, and came back to the scene of a fire next door to his home.

“They were putting tar on the roof,” Moblia noted. “I figured they knew what they were doing. I went out to a doctor’s appointment, and when I came back fire engines were all over the street.”

People who live in the Country Club area are awaiting the return of their popular eatery.

“Loretta’s Pizza is a neighborhood staple,” said area resident Dante Russo. “My grandmother lived here for 30 years, and I remember it when I was a kid. It has been here for my entire life, it is a big hangout for all the children here.”

The neighborhood feels the pizzeria has become something of an institution. The restaurant was even used as a location for the filming of the Spike Lee movie Summer of Sam, staring John Leguizamo.

“This pizza place has been a staple in the community for over 25 years, before I lived here” said a Layton Avenue resident who did not wish to be identified. “It may have changed hands, but it was always there. This really is a shame.”

Others up and down Layton Avenue mourned the loss of the establishment, and wish that it re-opens as soon as possible.

“Likely, the fire started when the workers on the roof began melting the rubber,” Country Club resident Bob Corona speculated, noting what a shame the accident is on the popular eatery.  “They do good business,” he added. 

Ironically, the charred phone of the pizzeria was still ringing long after the fire had been extinguished.

“I couldn’t put a price on this place,” said co-owner Paul D’Errico. “We just want the insurance to work its magic so we can get back in business.”

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