PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- It's hard to miss the sign at the original Streets of New York location at 32nd Street and Cactus Road in Phoenix, emanating both a long-standing history and presence within the local community. The large sign, which has been grandfathered in at the location since its inception in 1976, classic brick walls, New-York themed interior, and to-go window brings a sense of nostalgia not often found, which is what makes this mom and pop pizza shop such a community treasure.
Outside of its original location, Streets of New York has expanded over the decades to multiple locations around the Valley, Prescott, and even Las Vegas. The pizzeria, which just celebrated its 45th anniversary in October, was started by Lorrie Glaeser and her husband when they moved to Phoenix in 1976. The Glaesers identified the need for more privately-owned pizza restaurants and East Coast-style pizza in Arizona.
"There were more franchise-style restaurants, which didn't have quite the same taste profile that we were seeking and would be enjoying. Our family moved here, and we came into this little restaurant, which was existing; the owner said, 'would you like to buy it?' and we were in business within a few weeks," Owner Lorrie Glaeser explained.
Glaeser says from that point; the restaurant began gathering a following of people eager for Streets of New York's taste profile. The eatery's small family-style neighborhood aspect caught on, allowing the Glaesers to grow their restaurant locations one at a time. As their locations grew, so has the Glaeser family, with three of Glaeser's children, their spouses, and three of six grandchildren also working for Streets of New York!
Some of the components Glaeser has focused on all these years at Streets of New York, which also helped get them started, is the use of fresh dough daily and unique, fresh ingredients not often found around town, or even in this country! The New York-style pizzas are made with the restaurant's yeast dough recipe, which is handcrafted in-house fresh every day, established by Glaeser's husband when they first opened 45 years ago.
"My husband was a baker, and that was our profession back in New Jersey. We owned a couple of bakeries, and he had a bakery background as a master baker from Germany," Glaeser said. "Finding the rest of the ingredients, our goal always to have it be fresh, not any can products. Mushrooms would never work for us if they were in a can. Seeking out ingredients was our job, to bring to the table what our guests would enjoy, the freshest of product. Cheese that we grate in our kitchens every single day, not a bagged cheese that has additives to keep it light and loose. So it was creating the profile that we put together 45 years ago and stand behind."
Streets of New York even imports tomatoes from Italy to make the sauce! Glaeser is so dedicated, the tomatoes themselves are grown explicitly in volcanic soil from the mountains outside of Naples in Italy for a special recipe sauce.
"The soil is just so rich with so many minerals and components. The tomatoes are just naturally sweet. We don't add any sugars to our tomato marinara sauce and created the recipe that we always had with our other ingredients, which would be our seasonings, the garlic, the onions, and the different spices that go into making it really unique. I stand behind our marinara, I've never changed my recipe," Glaeser said.
Glaeser does it all from being the face of the company, overseeing culinary operations as a chief food taster for all new menu creations, establishing partnerships with all the major professional sports teams in Arizona, and working alongside employees. Some of whom have been with the company for over 30 years.
"Streets of New York was developed by being a family-operated business. Close members of our team, Streets of New York employees, who we consider to be family. They're very close to us. We've worked together for so many years; a lot of them have been with us for well over 20 years. That's an accomplishment to say that I'm so proud of," Glaeser said.
Building such close teams at her restaurants has helped Glaeser's Valley expansion, and she has no plans of slowing down. Glaeser said she has plans for future locations in emerging areas to continue bringing Valley neighborhoods family-style business with Streets of New York's reputation for delicious New York-style pizza. Why is this proud Jersey girl so motivated to bring smiles and tasty East Coast food to Valley residents? According to Glaeser, the answer is simple: serving people.
"My mantra has always been to serve people and enjoy just being with people; I love working with people. I have 380 current employees right now, and they'll always see me in the kitchen. If I'm in my high heels, I'm walking around, sliding around helping on the kitchen floor," Glaeser joked. "I love this business. I love participating and being a caretaker of Streets of New York and developing it to where it is today."
And what a journey it's been; the tastes of the food itself prove Glaeser's longstanding recipes and ingredients over the years are both time-tested and proven favorites by residents around Phoenix and across the Valley. The sauce I sampled was hearty and rich and had an excellent consistency without being too acidic or spicy. The dough baked perfectly and was soft while still having a slight chewiness to it and held the well-topped pizzas together very proficiently. The dressing in the Toscana and Antipasto salads were noticeably game-changers and really elevate the Streets of New York's salads. With the Pizza Rollups, again, the dough was just so soft but baked well and had great bursts of flavor with the well-seasoned meats and freshly grated cheese. It's no surprise why residents have flocked to these neighborhood pizza shops over the years.
"We're very, very grateful for the support of our customers that come in and support Streets of New York with their desire for the flavor and their desire to be with a company they know has been around for quite a few years. The taste and the profile of our food is what they seek and what they come in for, and I am so proud of that aspect of my business," Glaeser said.
Despite the current supply chain issues nationwide, Glaeser's great relationships she has built over the years with her suppliers and distributing companies guaranteed her they'll keep the ingredients and special tomatoes flowing so Glaeser can continue serving up the foods her customers have come to know and love over the years. Glaeser's determination to continue providing the same quality food to her customers is about more than just her appreciation for their support; but coincides with her love and passion for food and cooking.
"I love food; I love working with it. I've been told, 'well, why don't you just order in?' and I'll say 'no, you don't understand!' Cooking to me is relaxing; it's my favorite passion, it's my favorite thing to do in my free time. I love getting together the ingredients to cook at home, and it just carries through with my business. It's a fun hobby to have," Glaeser explained.
Glaeser attributes Streets of New York's success to the customers and the support they've given, especially during the pandemic. Glaeser thanks the guests who continue to support Streets of New York and for their kindness and thankfulness toward the staff.
This family-based neighborhood pizza shop is proud to be a part of the communities they serve, and it's evident through the quality and taste of the product that Glaeser and her team will always answer the call to provide what their patrons expect. As the Valley continues to grow, enthusiasts for New York-style pizza, East Coast cooking, or ardent supporters of local businesses can look forward to knowing Streets of New York is along for the ride. With Glaeser at the helm, the neighborhood eatery will continue to grow along with the Valley and do what it does best: serve their communities with love and a shared passion for food.
This is the seventh segment in a breakout series on chefs in the Phoenix metro. Arizona’s Family Foodie is sitting down with chefs around the Valley to tell their stories of triumphs, perseverance, and dedication to their crafts. There is a sizeable amount of work, research, and experimentation that culminates into what gets placed in front of you on a plate or in a drink. These are the stories of the creative minds behind those delicious meals or cocktails, and how their passions for food and beverage bring us joy and closer together.