A slice of life
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Pete Longo has had a filling and sweet career in the pizza, pasta and chocolate industries. He started early in his uncle Joe's fledgling business Longo's Pizza, and then worked at Chef Boyardee, and most recently, Hershey Chocolate.
Pete Longo, 65, of Nesquehoning has had a filling and sweet career in the pizza, pasta and chocolate industries. He started early in his uncle Joe's fledgling business Longo's Pizza, and then worked at Chef Boyardee, and most recently, Hershey Chocolate.
When he was 14 months old, the Hazleton native's father passed away in a coal mine accident. In his last year of high school, Pete's uncle Joe Longo was working at Senape's, making bread, rolls a rectangular deli-style pizza that could be eaten cold.
"Uncle Joe was thinking that he would like to own a bakery someday. So his thought was that if the Senape family would sell the business, he would be interested in buying it. It turned out that the Senape family was interested in selling the business but didn't know that my uncle was interested in buying it, and they didn't talk to each other about it. The bakery was sold to someone else."
So, in 1967 Joe Longo bought a brick oven bakery that had been started by Nick Dalo in 1925. Nine months later, when Pete was on summer vacation between high school and starting at Bloomsburg University, he worked for his uncle Joe at the Hazleton bakery.
"About 10 or 12 people worked In the bakery Making hundreds of pizzas each day. We did pizza, bread and rolls, and once a week we would make sweet buns."
"We worked ridiculous hours," he said. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we worked an easy 11 or 12 hour day, but on Thursdays and Fridays, it was typically 13 hours-or more. "A lot of Roman Catholics would not eat meat on Fridays, so Friday was a big pizza day."
"I worked there for two summers. Uncle Joe was a good guy. He treated everybody well," Pete said. "But when you work for your family you are expected to do a little extra and be there a little longer. At times there were up to six family members working there: myself, my mother, my uncle, his brother, his sister, and occasionally my uncle's wife would come in and help out."
The bakery had two ovens-both coal-fired. One was made of brick and the pizzas were placed into them individually. The other oven had a device inside that was like a Ferris wheel, where pizza was loaded and then rotated downward, and the next pizza was loaded, until all the racks were filled and then the first pizza which was now baked and removed and an unbaked pizza took its place. "I used to eat a lot of pizza when I worked there. I still do," Pete said.
He graduated from Bloomsburg University with a degree in science during the Vietnam War years. He joined the Air Force and, except for basic training, never left New Jersey. He returned to Bloomsburg University as a graduate assistant, and to study for Masters degree in biology.
After graduating, Pete joined the Central Research Laboratory at the Chef Boyardee company in Milton Pennsylvania. He was responsible for making sure that the foods were safe. Whenever there was a question whether a batch of ravioli or meatballs was properly cooked, Pete would simulate the batch both with products and cooking technique, install a thermocouple in a ravioli or meatball, place it in the middle of the can, and check that the cooking technique would ensure that the product would be "commercially sterile" and safe for extended shelf storage.
As Pete's mother aged, he found it necessary to return to Hazleton. He returned to the bakery business working for Boboli, a supplier of pizza crusts to supermarkets. Later, he had a job at Hershey's packing chocolates.
Pete Longo's been away from Longo's pizza for many years, and it has been out of the family for many years. In 1986, James Capriotti purchased the bakery from Joe Longo. In 1997, Longo's acquired the brand name and routes of Mama Nardone's Pizza. In 2000, Longo's completed the purchase of Petruzzi's Bakery. In 2002, Longo's took over the Philly Crust Bakery in Philadelphia.