For Vinny Vitale, opening his own pizza shop was a labor of love.

Vitale became the new owner of Mario's Pizza and Family Restaurant at 105 Park St., Weissport, two years ago.

"I grew up making pizza with my dad," said the young entrepreneur. "I learned the pizza business with my dad from the age of 12."

He was so enthused with cooking that after completing high school, he intended to attend culinary school. But fearing his son would miss him too much, his dad begged him to stay at home.

He stayed at his father's side making pizza at Vinny's Pizza in Lower Macungie until the opportunity arose in September 2008 to purchase his own restaurant in Weissport.

"I saved my money from the time I was young so I could open my own business," he said. "When I saw this location for sale, I thought why not take a shot. It has worked out for the better. I am very happy. I have no regrets."

Vinny said he had lots of hands-on training from my dad.

"I know my dad is proud of me," he said.

Vinny makes his favorite meal – strumboli – from scratch.

"I make my own pizza dough and Panini bread," he said.

The staff makes their own pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce, using Vinny's own secret family recipe, which is slightly different from his father's.

"I like my dad's sauce," he said, "but I like mine better."

Vinny is very appreciative for his customers.

"Without great customers, you have nothing," he said, adding that many customers treat him like he is part of their family.

Many Mario's customers are happy with the drive-up service. Since the business was formerly a bank, the drive in window was retained and now, pizza's are dispensed instead of cash.

Vinny also credits his employees for making his restaurant known not only for having great food, but for its clean, cheerful atmosphere.

"I have the best employees in the world," he said. "I have great clients. I couldn't be happier."

Many Mario's customers are happy with the drive-up service. Since the business was formerly a bank, the drive in window was retained and now, pizza's are dispensed instead of cash.

Mario's also won the Weissport Rednecks Best Wing Contest in Carbon County after being selected in a blind taste test by wings contestants. In fact, many of the contestants asked for seconds during the contest.

"I can't believe my wings won," said Vinny. "I know they're good. I use a special citric sauce that makes mine taste just a little bit different. That's why I believe I won."

Mario's Restaurant has pizza, Strombolis, wrap sandwiches, burgers, chicken, fish sandwiches, baked pasta and pasta dinners. He also offers a variety of hot and cold sandwiches and subs. Rolls for the subs and steak sandwiches come in fresh each day from Philadelphia.

Mario's Restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information or to place an order call (610) 377-7800.