Ditroia has owned Louie’s Pizza Shop, at 3178 E. Tremont Avenue, for the last five years, braving the ovens burning at 500-degrees each, with only two windows, four exhaust fans and a small standing fan to help deal with the heat.
“This place has been here for over 30 years,” said the proud owner, who worked at the establishment for 18 years before taking over the business from his godfather Louis Ottuso. “They have always had to work in this heat. I guess you get used to it once you have done it for so long.”
Ditroia cannot afford an air conditioner powerful enough to keep things cool during the hot summer months.
“He said, “My Con Edison bill was $1,400. Imagine what it could be with air conditioning.”
But when temperatures reach the upper 80’s and 90’s on weekdays, the popular pizza shop owner has to close down or risk the dangers associated with prolonged exposure to heat.
“You don’t want to lose money, but your body can only sustain so much abuse from the heat,” he said. “So, if it is really bad, I will work until the afternoon and just call it a day. You have to.”
But on the weekends, the price of doing business leaves Ditroia braving the elements to support his family.
“I feel horrible for him,” said nearby neighbor Francesca Falciano, owner of Creative Images Hair Salon, at 3162 E. Tremont Avenue.
But there is a reason why Ditroia puts up with the heat.
“I just bought a house in Throggs Neck and I have a wife and two kids,” he said.
But Ditroia knows the dangers he faces far too well, watching as his father almost succumbed to the heat inside.
“We thought he was suffering from heat stroke,” he recalled. “We almost had to take him to the hospital.”
Ditroia says he would be open to programs that would help him pay for central air conditioning, but cannot part with too much of his own money considering the economy as of late.
Due to rising costs, Ditroia has had to raise the price, himself of a slice of pizza to $2.25 and a large pie to $13.
Still, with the increase in costs for gas and taxes plaguing residents, Ditroia looks for every opportunity to give back.
Louie’s Pizza Shop promotes a weekend special from Friday to Sunday, offering residents a large 18” pizza, a two-liter soda and an order of garlic knots, all for a total of $9.99.
“I know firsthand what the community is going through,” he said. “I just want to help in whatever way I can. And for people living on a fixed income, this really helps out.”
“People trust me and trust my food,” he said. “I was told as a kid that consistency is key. If you put out the same great product every day, people will always come back for more.”