Westlake eatery serves up a slice of the American Dream
When Anthony Perolli's parents came to America from Albania in 1969, they went straight to New York. That is where Perolli was born and raised — in Brooklyn — and where he took his first job behind a pizza counter at age 13.
Today, you'll still find him behind a pizza counter. But it's his own place — and it's in Westlake, Texas.
"We've come a long way," Perolli said.
The family's path took a major turn in 1979 when Perolli's aunt and uncle, Vera and Joe Lusha, moved from New York to North Texas and opened Joe's Pizza. They had a tough go at it the first few years, Perolli said, but eventually the New York pizza restaurants began to spread across DFW and pick up steam. That is when it became a family affair.
"All us family members moved down here one at a time and opened up Joe's Pizzas," he said. "We were all in the restaurant business in New York, but Texas is great. We were lucky to get here when we did."
It was 1996 when Perolli, along with his parents, opened their restaurant in Westlake.
Uncle Joe himself picked the location, Perolli said, but he and his father picked the name La Scala. They weren't nervous opening their first place, he said, because they believed in the power of hard work and quality product.
"You take the risk, and we believe as long as you work hard and do things right, it's going to work," he said. "We will never cut corners — buy the best cheese, buy the best flour, buy the best products period."
It started out as a mixed concept, and remains one to this day: one restaurant, two distinct styles. There is the Joe's Pizza side, which features casual seating and a traditional pizza counter stacked with slices, calzones and more for the customer in need of a quick turnaround. And just across a narrow hallway, tables are swathed in tablecloths and the menu offers a selection of fine dining Italian dishes, including steaks, seafood and veal. The restaurant also features a bar where patrons can kick back surrounded by New York sports memorabilia and enjoy a DJ until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
There are even two signs that point you to the restaurant: signs for Joe's Pizza and signs for La Scala. But Perolli says he is ready to finally drop the Joe's name.
"We all stuck with it because it was perfect marketing: open up everywhere and everyone gets to know the name. That's what pizza was in Dallas-Fort Worth," he said. "But we were never a franchise, we were a family business."
Because the location is tucked away in Westlake's primary commercial center, La Scala has relied on word of mouth and loyal customers to build business.
"My customers, they're more than customers to me," he said. "You see them two or three times a week for 16 years; it's like family."
Perolli never forgets how it all began, though, with one family's dream of making it big.
"We really owe it to my grandfather," he said. "All my aunts and uncles, we all own restaurants, and he's the one who helped us with the money."
Perolli describes his grandfather, Bajram Ukperaj, as a man's man and a great person with a big heart. He died in November 2010.
"He wanted to make sure he saw us all do good," said Perolli, whose father changed his last name to match the Albanian town they came from. "He died happy."
Cheese Pizza: "Plain cheese — that's New York pizza," Perolli said. "I eat pizza every day, that's an absolute. And maybe twice a day." ($7.95 and up)
Chicken Parmesan: ($7.95 at lunch)
Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich: ($5.25)
Veal Piccata: ($8.95 at lunch)
Tiramisu: "The tiramisu is one of the only things we don't make here," Perolli revealed. "The tiramisu comes from Manhattan and the cheesecakes come from Brooklyn." ($4.95)
La Scala New York Pizzeria & Bar, 3 Village Circle, Ste. 115, Westlake, 817-491-3779
- Joe's Pizza side
- Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
- bar open until 2 a.m. Fri. & Sat. with limited menu
- La Scala side
- Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.-10:30,
- Sat. 4:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.