How tragedy in New York City led a family to Akron and gave rise to a great pizza shop in Kenmore
by Eric Morris
The recipe for success at Pierre’s Brooklyn Pizza and Deli is almost comically simple, but expertly precise: “You make good pizza, everyone comes to you,” the shop’s eponymous owner says.
As simple as it may seem, it’s proven true for the two-person operation—Pierre and his wife, Mireille—whose regulars popped in and out, while Pierre, looking curiously out the window, predicted each patron’s order with stunning accuracy.
On the streets of Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood, the store looks transplanted from its namesake city of Brooklyn. However, Pierre’s shares more than its recipes and charm with New York. The small shop is tied tragically to NYC, its people and scars that have never completely healed.
Before moving into a red brick storefront on Kenmore Ave, before his made-from-scratch sauce and dough brought customers from around northeast Ohio, Pierre Sahlani was working in his family’s grocery when two commercial airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center. While panicked bystanders fled from the rubble and chaos, Pierre and his employees left their shop and rushed to Ground Zero to help.
“They left without thinking,” Mireille says. “It was just a reaction. They had to go.”
Afterward, the city was depressing. The luster was gone. The place was no longer the same for them. They’d lost friends and customers, and counted how many firefighters in their borough left and “never returned.”
To cope, Pierre returned to his native Lebanon. While he was away, three of his friends went on a hunting trip they’d invited him to join. When Pierre returned to the states, Mireille, who stayed in New York, had to tell him his friends were killed when their car rolled.
“He was supposed to be with them,” she says.
It was time, they decided, to leave the New York; time for a new life. So the two natives of Lebanon left Brooklyn for Akron, where Pierre had family. Here, he found a pizza shop that was going out of business at 964 Kenmore Blvd, a place they would call home for the next six years as they moved into the apartment above the store.
Their menu runs the gamut from ten-topping pizzas to sub sandwiches that rival an actual submarine in size, layered thick with lunch meats and lettuce.
“You ever see a pizza like this?” Pierre asks, pulling out a pie the size of manhole cover. As he bags an Italian for one of his regulars, he gestures with the sub, which looks like it could possibly feed a family for a week, and says, “This is our sandwich.”
Presently, they’re recruiting family to join them in Akron, but their New York roots are obvious. One wall in the pizza shop is dedicated to their former city, including a black and white photograph of the Twin Towers overlooking the Hudson River and a star-spangled fireman’s helmet once worn by former-NYC Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.
Mireille and Pierre go about their business in a city they’ve come to love. In Ohio, the weather is much the same. Even now, she still loves the snow. And Pierre, being the responsible restaurateur he is, embraces it too because, of course, the snow, he says, kills the germs.