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Cocca’s Pizza opens shop on city’s east side

SALEM

From left, Cocca’s Pizza personnel Jessica Kazee, general manager Seth Guy, owner Angel Gabriele, general manager Chuck Lamping and owner Steve Cocca prepare some pizzas at the Salem location, 2348 E. State St., which will celebrate its grand opening with Customer Appreciation Day on Wednesday. For that day only, a 16-inch large one topping pizza will cost just $6.99, plus there’s a chance to stock up on gift cards for a 16-inch large one topping pizza for $6.99, good at all locations with no expiration date. Customers can also enter to win free pizza for a year, with the drawing March 20. Call 330-332-3313 to order. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)

Cocca’s Pizza, featuring a taste of Italy with dough made fresh daily and recipes passed down from generation to generation, will celebrate its Grand Opening/Customer Appreciation Day in Salem on Wednesday.

The Salem Plaza location at 2348 E. State St. opened on Oct. 17, 2019, giving Cocca’s Pizza its ninth location since Tina and the late Nick Cocca opened the first shop in Boardman in 1982.

Since then, it’s been a true labor of love for the entire family, with Tina still active as owner along with two of her children, Steve Cocca and Angel Gabriele, who are also working owners of the family business.

Steve said they wanted to open a Cocca’s Pizza in Salem for quite some time and now they want to show their appreciation for the great support they’ve received.

For one day only, on Wednesday, they’re offering customers a 16-inch large one topping pizza for $6.99 — just call 330-332-3313 to place an order. Customers can also purchase gift cards for a 16-inch large one topping pizza for $6.99. There’s no limit on the number of cards that can be purchased and no expiration date. Plus they’re good at any Cocca’s Pizza location. The gift cards are offered for sale once a year at every location.

Salem customers can also fill out an entry form to win free pizza for a year. The drawing will be held March 20.

“I absolutely love Salem. I think the people are absolutely wonderful,” Angel said, adding the employees are great and really work hard.

The Salem location employs 20 workers, both full and part-time, with Chuck Lamping and Seth Guy the general managers. Overall, the company has 275 employees both full and part-time. Besides Salem and Boardman, the other locations include Canfield, Liberty, Cortland, New Middletown, Poland, Mineral Ridge and Girard. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant offers in-house dining.

Visit the website at www.coccaspizza.com to get the phone numbers and peruse the menu featuring traditional and specialty pizzas even pierogi pizza, wings, salads, sandwiches, desserts like Nutella’s Pizza, cannoli and fried dough, and the famous made-to-order Cocca’s Rolls, each a foot-long and stuffed with ingredients of the customer’s choosing,

from pepperoni and cheese, to spinach, chicken, various meats and vegetables, and pizza toppings.

In observance of the Lenten season, Cocca’s will have fish dinners, fried or broiled, with a side of French fries or macaroni and cheese starting Wednesday and continuing every Friday during Lent. For the month of March, to honor St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll have a reuben roll. They also offer daily specials.

“We make our dough fresh every day and we use nothing but the highest quality ingredients. We take great pride in serving nothing but the best,” Steve said.

No conveyor belts here — Cocca’s Pizza cooks pizza the old-fashioned way, using brick ovens. There’s a dough room and a proofer for the dough, a temperature-controlled room to make sure the dough rises properly.

Steve’s mother Tina created the famous rolls, all because his father wanted something for lunch one day. She took a bunch of pepperoni and cheese and rolled it up in pizza dough and the roll took off from there, becoming a staple of the Cocca’s Pizza menu.

The Cocca’s Pizza story actually started years before that. Nick came to America at age 14 and was originally in the baking business. He wanted to be self-employed and started his own construction company. On a Christmas break to Italy, he met Tina. They fell in love, married and emigrated to the United States where they started a family, raising four children. Tina wanted a pizza shop as a way to occupy some of her time, Nick constructed the building and the rest is history.

The quality of her food made the business take off, using recipes from her grandmother and her own mom. Her family had a grocery store in Italy and is known for their bread.

Steve and Angel’s two siblings, Maria Kurelko and Dan Cocca don’t work in the business, but they help out when they can. Dan has his own pizza shop in New Jersey. Steve’s wife Theresa and their boys, Nicolo, 15, Santino, 13, Enzo, 12, and Rocco, 10, all help on busy days. Angel’s husband, Joe, helps a lot, too, along with their daughters, Brittany and Nicola, who both live in Columbus, but have helped in the past. Maria’s daughter, Marissa, works at the Boardman location, and her other daughter, Sabrina, works as a civil engineer, but helps, too.

“We consider everybody family who works in the Cocca’s Pizza company,” Steve said.

Nick Ludbin serves as director of operations and Keith Dougherty serves as regional manager.

Steve called the tri-county area the “pizza capital of the world” and said he respects that there’s a lot of great pizza out there. He said Cocca’s loves being part of the community.

For now, customers must call 330-332-3313 to place their orders, but in the future, he said they’re working to set up the Cocca’s Pizza app for ordering.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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