The secret to Teddy’s Pizza Restaurant’s 34 years of success in South Windsor isn’t nearly as spicy as the establishment’s famed pepito sauce.
Actually, the reason for the success of the restaurant, located at 289 Oakland Road, is pretty bland.
“We’re friendly to people and our ingredients in our pizza and our food have never changed,” shrugged Lee Kanellopoulos, who co-owns Teddy’s with Arthur Karahalios.
There’s more to it than that, of course. A consistent product is fine, but it also helps if it’s good, too.
And people rave about Teddy’s Greek-style pizza, Greek and Italian dishes, grinders and seafood dinners.
The house salad dressing is so good, Kanellopoulos says, that people from Florida, North Carolina and Virgina make special stops in South Windsor just for a taste.
Oh, and Kanellopoulos said that his signature dish, Chicken a la Lee, is the stuff of local legend. So much so that Kanellopoulos said that he passed the recipe on to the owner of the Carnegie Deli in New York City - a personal friend - who now features the dish on the menu under a different name.
The prices are competitive. Italian dishes like lasagna, manicotti, ravioli and stuffed shells run in the neighborhood of $15. The famed Greek salad goes for $8.95 for a small and $10.95 for a large. The pizza - don’t forget the pizza - goes from $8.95 for a small plain to $20.95 for a large specialty pie. Grinders - e.g., ham, genoa salami, philly steak, meatball - cost $6.50 for a half and and $9.50 for a large.
But while the food and the personality of the co-owners hasn’t changed much in over three decades of operation, the town certainly has. Indeed, when Karahalios first opened Teddy’s in 1978, there were just three restaurants in a town of just several thousand people.
“In 1978, there was nobody,” said Kanellopoulos. “You couldn’t breathe in the air because of the fertilizer [from the farms]. … Then people just started opening [restaurants] everywhere.”
Indeed, South Windsor grew to over 25,000, according to the 2009 census. Now there are eight pizza joints in town and Teddy’s responded to the population growth and competition by undergoing a $200,000 renovation/expansion in 2007.
“Now we’re a restaurant that you can bring your family, your girlfriend, your wife to eat,” Kanellopoulos said. “People who grew up in South Windsor come here to work from high school.”
Kanellopoulos estimates that Teddy’s has employed a thousand youths throughout the years. While that may be a touch hyperbolic, his recollection of their subsequent accomplishments is not.
“I remember all the kids,” Kanellopoulos said. “Some made it in life, some of them didn’t.”
He ticked off several of the successes with a smile. There’s the young lady who grew up to work for a big company in Phoenix; there’s Dave, the screenwriter; another who owns his own insurance company.
“I know I had a hand in that,” he said. “Now we have a new batch” of kids working at Teddy’s.
The years have melted away for Kanellopoulos, who, at 57, is contemplating a possible retirement on the horizon … or maybe not.
“I have another eight years to go,” he said. “[Karahalios] is a year younger than me. He has nine more to go. We’re going to retire … maybe. We didn’t spend $200,000 on this place just to leave.”
If and when they do leave, people will be heartbroken. They love not only the food, but the personalities of the owners and the staff.
“They’re very friendly and they always make the food the way you ask them to,” said South Windsor resident Edna Shlien, who has been a Teddy’s customer for more than 12 years. “And I’m a picky eater.”
Teddy’s Pizza Restaurant, located at 289 Oakland Road in South Windsor, is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m, Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.teddyspizzarestaurant.com.