PITTSTON TOWNSHIP — For 51 years, the pizza hasn’t changed. For 51 years, the owners didn’t change.
The latter, however, has just changed.
Georgia Savokinas, owner of Savo’s Pizza and Family Restaurant in the Pittston Commons, recently sold the business to Rich Grillo and his partner Ziggy Koczot. Savo’s has been in business since 1964.
“It’s a really busy place that’s been part of the community for 51 years,” Grillo said. “When I heard it was for sale, I was intrigued. I know the location is great.”
Grillo, who had owned several restaurants in Northeast Pennsylvania and Connecticut, said he isn’t worried about taking over a pizza business in an area saturated with pizza shops and is excited to continue to carry on the Savo’s legacy.
The pizza and many of the favorite menu items will remain “identical,” Grillo said.
The recipes of the pizza, wing sauces and chili will remain exactly as they have been since 1964. The employees will also remain.
“They’ve been serving that pizza for 51 years,” Grillo said. “That’s what made the business.”
Way back in ‘64
The Savokinas family has owned the business for more than 50 years and celebrated their golden anniversary last summer.
Mike Savokinas Sr. and his brother Ray opened Savo’s after Pittston pizzeria owner Pete Be said it was a good business venture. Be moved his business from Pittston to Exeter.
The Savokinas family first opened a restaurant on South Main Street in Pittston in 1964. The restaurant was popular with high school students after school and on the weekends and, with the factory business booming in the early 1960s, the business sold a lot of pizza to those workers.
At the start, Savo’s pizza was 10 cents per slice. Another nickel bought customers a soda.
In the 1970s, Downtown Pittston’s economy took a disappointing turn. Savo’s relocated to the Pittston Plaza on the newly-constructed Pittston Bypass in 1971. Savo’s opened a branch location at that time in the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming. They also ran a concession stand at the Pittston Pool for many years.
The branch location closed in 1975. The family also opened the popular Staircase Lounge in the plaza. In 1994, the Staircase relocated to the 755 South Township Boulevard — a bigger space for larger events.
A fire destroyed the restaurant and lounge in 1977, but the business was open just six months later. Since then, the family has been at its current location.
In 2013, just a year before Savo’s celebrated its 50th anniversary, Mike Savokinas passed away at the age of 71. Since then, Georgia has been in and out of the restaurant helping wherever she can.
Inside Savo’s is like a blast from the past. Decades ago, when the Sunday Dispatch discarded all of its photo negatives, Mike Savokinas was there to clean up the mess. Now, many of those photos can be seen inside the restaurant.
Grillo isn’t sure what will happen to the inside of the building, but he did mention possibly leaving it up to the customers. In the future, he plans to add a bar area to the restaurant and utilize the liquor license purchased with the restaurant.
“I genuinely care about what I’m doing,” he said. “I care about what I’m serving and I care about the community. I want them have a top-notch experience.”
Grillo has known the Savokinas family and has been in the area for approximately five years. He knows what the business is and once was.
“The original owner — I can only hope to be half the restaurateur that he was,” Grillo said. “He had an amazing business. I really want this place to represent him. I care about the things he built.”
The Savokinas family knew not only pizza but how to have a good time.
The Staircase Lounge was the Pittston area’s premier nightspot from 1994 to 2005 and rivaled The Woodlands back in the day.
The lounge was cutting edge for its time. Mike and Ray Savokinas, along with Art Bartolai, unveiled the area’s first laser light show staged to the music of “Star Wars.” Lasers were used with multiple reflective surfaces to create dancing beams of light throughout the club.
The Staircase Lounge closed in the 2005 but before it did, it played host to a few household names.
Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys kicked off his solo tour with a stop at the Staircase on Feb. 17, 2004. Some of the more popular concerts held there included The Black Eyed Peas, Blue Oyster Cult, Theory of a Deadman, Third Eye Blind, Hinder, Ted Nugent and Breaking Benjamin.