Sal’s Italian Restaurant didn’t always look the way it does now. Established in 1977, it was originally a high end Italian cuisine restaurant, the kind where the tables are covered in white tablecloths and fine glassware, and Burlington residents dressed up to sit down.
“Burlington has never been a real high-end town,” Sal Mazzurco, current owner, said. Mazzurco’s father, who ran the restaurant when it first opened, wanted to start something new. He pulled out all the stops of a gourmet experience, but he soon found out that wasn’t the best way to connect to the community.
A Family Affair
One day, Mazzurco’s father got sick of it all. He folded up the white tablecloths, put away the glassware and went for more of a pizzeria-style restaurant where people could relax with their loved ones on a regular basis. “He built the restaurant more around families, which is what we are known for,” Mazzurco said.
That mission, to build community and focus on family, is still at the heart of everything they do today.
Mazzurco grew up in the restaurant, started working for his dad when he was eight years old. He had a few jobs at other restaurants and a local tavern while growing up, but he eventually grew tired of the nightlife scene and ended up running the family business.
Mazzurco became manager of Sal’s Italian Restaurant a year before his father died. Currently, he manages the restaurant while raising his own two kids, four-year-old Giovanni and two-year-old Gabriella.
To keep the family tradition alive, Mazzurco still makes all the food from scratch.
Their most popular dish is their pizza, closely followed by the chicken parmesan. Mazzurco said they use about 1500 pounds of flour for pizza dough every week and cook 80 pounds of parm. Their special sauce is cooked in homemade batches 40 gallons at a time.
The menu is expansive, with more than four pages of options. Entrees range from 10 to 16 dollars and include meat dishes and salads in addition to traditional Italian pizza and pasta cuisine.
Having grown up in the area, Mazzurco feels strong ties to the local community. He sees families who have eaten there for up to four generations. “We’ve built such a regular clientele here in the Burlington market,” Mazzurco said.
In fact, Mazzurco stayed close to home for college. He is an alum of Elon University.
Elon students make up a large part of his clientele, and Mazzurco enjoys seeing the familiar faces. “As a student, I got to know a lot of people, and after graduation, I knew a lot of people from Elon,” Mazzurco said.
Because he’s been working in the restaurant for so long, Mazzurco says he likes to watch Elon students grow up and come back to Elon come back during homecoming. “A lot of them are very great kids,” Mazzurco said.
Mazzurco sees some students come in 3-4 times a week, and he loves to provide an environment where groups of friends can hang out.
Occasionally, Mazzurco likes to walk around Elon’s campus with his own kids. “I like to see how much the campus has changed, and when I go back sometimes it blows my mind.”
Mazzurco also likes to go to community events, and sometimes, give back. For ElonThon this week, Sal’s Restaurant will be donating pizza for the dancers. The restaurant also sponsored a soccer field at Joe Davidson Park.
He says residents choose to spend money on local businesses, so it’s important to donate locally.
“Community involvement is a big part of the restaurant business because it builds relationships with the locals,” Mazzurco said.