The year was 1973 and Aerosmith released its debut album.
Nixon was inaugurated for a second term.
And Gino’s Pizzeria changed hands for the first time on West Main Street in Bay Shore.
The new owner, Gabriel Mauso, continued to run the pizzeria until he retired in 2012. That was the year Mama’s took over, opening in the space next to the Boulton Center, where Gino’s has been since 1968.
Mama’s stayed open for a year, and was followed by Giordano’s.
And along for all of those transitions was Julio Hernandez, 48, of Central Islip, who had made pizza at the old Gino’s since 1998.
Hernandez lamented the loss of Gino’s, and with that, so many of its regulars. So he took matters into his own hands.
He took over the business himself earlier this year, and later renamed the place Gino’s. The pizza parlor was closed for about a month in between so Hernandez could spiffy up the place.
“All the people here, to me, were like family,” said Hernandez. “All the customers. When it wasn’t Gino’s and people see different faces, they start to go somewhere else. I wanted to bring everybody back. I brought back the same sauce from Gino’s, and the same cheese.
The second incarnation of Gino’s opened on March 21.
Although Hernandez said it’s been a challenge recapturing Gino’s old regulars, he’s glad the name is back on Main Street, especially with downtown Bay Shore’s resurgence.
After all, he noted, the original pizzeria survived some tough times, just consider that its neighbor — now the YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts — was once a porno house.
“I’m not complaining,” he said of his investment in Bay Shore. “It’s picking up, little by little.”
And he’s confident in the future.
Mauso, an immigrant from Naples who lived in Brightwaters for decades before moving to Queens, said he was just 23 when he purchased Gino’s from the original owner.
He and Hernandez spoke earlier this year about the return of Gino’s to West Main Street, and Mauso advised that Hernandez take care to buy all the top-quality ingredients that Mauso had.
Basically, his advice boiled down to this: “Don’t change anything.”
“Julio knows everything about the pizza; it’s the same pizza that I made,” Mauso said.
Although the fundamentals are the same, Hernandez pointed out that that so much as changed in the pizzeria business over the past few decades.
Take the pizza. In 1973, even 1993, customers had just a few options: regular or Sicilian, as well as a choice of standard toppings like pepperoni, sausage, meatball, mushrooms or anchovies.
“Now we have all this stuff,” he said, listing some of the specialty slices. “Chicken, bacon and ranch. Barbecue. Chicken Caesar. Mac and Cheese!
“If you’re not making all this stuff, you’re not making any business.”
Photo Caption: Gino’s Pizzeria owner Julio Hernandez at the pizza parlor Thursday. (Michael White)