Slice of life is ending
BOB MILLER/TIMES NEWS Fran Barno, who has worked for Cerimele's Catering Service for 42 years, takes a pizza from the oven.
The aroma of fresh-baked pizza wafts through the air in New Columbus.
It must be Friday.
As you walk into the basement of Michael "Schmick" Cerimele's home, you witness a flurry of activity as Cerimele's Catering Service employees prepare the dough and shred the cheese that will create the landmark meal thousands have enjoyed for over a half century.
The 86-year-old owner sits quietly in a corner, supervising the stirring, chopping and rolling.
This Friday, after hundreds of those famous pizzas are made, baked and picked up; the lights at Cerimele's will be turned off, the ovens shut down and the doors closed for good.
Cerimele says that even though the business is popular, he feels "it's time" to hang up his apron and retire.
"I'm going to take it easy now and enjoy life," he says.
Cerimele's Catering Service has been in business since May of 1959. Schmick and his wife, Ann, who passed away in 1992, began the venture of catering events when he could not find employment after being laid off from Bundy Tubing. They opened the shop in the basement of his parents' house in the New Columbus section of Nesquehoning, where it still operates today.
The business flourished over the years, serving a full Italian-style meal at weddings, funerals, picnics and more around the area, as well as in the Lehigh Valley, Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, and even the surrounding Philadelphia communities.
As the years flew by, the Cerimeles continued to build strong business roots, which included serving Schmick's parents' recipe for pizza.
The gooey cheese pizza was made to order every Friday with Cerimele and a countless number of employees, which included his parents Michael and Philomena "Mayme," when they were still alive.
To make the pies, Cerimele purchased a stone mixer from the former Coaldale Hospital, which he still operates today.
"It never missed one day," Cerimele said of the mixer.
He also uses mixing bowls and pots from World War II.
The family estimates that over a quarter million pizzas have exited the doors of Cerimele's since Schmick and Ann launched their business 53 years ago.
To family friend Danny Greek, who purchased a total of 2,604 pizzas over the last half century, Cerimele's pizza is "the best pizza around."
Current employees Fran Barno, who worked at the business for 42 years; Liz Walls for six years; and Gena Mele for three years; agree with Greek. They recently shared experiences they have had while baking the pizza, including burning one every once in a while.
For Barno, Friday will be a sad day as she says goodbye to a job she loves.
The best part, she says, has been meeting new people. She adds that Schmick was always a good and fair boss.
Mele echoes Barno's thoughts, saying "He always treated us like family."
Area pizza lovers still have one chance to purchase Cerimele's pizza before the shop closes. Orders are being accepted and can be picked up on Friday, Aug. 31. To order, call (570) 669-6445 or (570) 669-9213.