La Gondola Pizzeria.
You see, a hungry office mate noticed La Gondola owner Sergio Muto scooping out his delicious pizzas from the store's oven with a wooden paddle, instead of the metal ones you see in most pizza parlors. And when our curious colleague asked about the paddle, he discovered that Sergio made it himself in his home workshop. Instead of ordering extra toppings on his slices, our clever co-worker asked Sergio if he might be able to repair the damaged wooden parts that help the umbrellas fold up and down. Of course, Sergio replied, "it's no problem."
Turns out, Sergio volunteered for a boatload of work. Many of the parts were so badly damaged that he had to replace them with painstakingly hand-crafted and hand-fitted new pieces. After working 12-14 hours a day all week long at La Gondola, a mainstay in the Square since 1978, he set off to his workshop on weekends to carve, shape, glue and clamp replacement pieces of hard maple, one of the more difficult woods to work with, to the battered umbrellas.
While Sergio says the result of his hard work is "no big deal," we think it's a really huge deal that he repaired the multi-colored umbrellas that dot the Square and provide a hideaway from the sun on summer days. When he showed us a few of the repaired umbrellas, some of which also needed newly shaped arms to stretch the canvas, we couldn't tell the old from the new. In fact, he paid so much attention to detail that even the wood grain matches up to spots where the replacement pieces meet original wood. And to retain the weather-warmed patina of the wood, he mixed up his own blend of stain.
So far, Sergio's repaired twelve of the damaged umbrellas, with nine more to go. Sergio is happy to help out with a great deal, especially with all the time involved. When we asked how many hours he's put in so far, he just laughed and said, "we're not even going to talk about that!"
The next time you're enjoying a little protection from the sun in the Square, take a look up and see the handiwork and friendship of Sergio on display. And remember to stop in for a slice of pie or hoagie all topped with a smile. That's always a good deal.
Speaking of good deals, the Iron City Sound Downtown Live! FREE concert series continues this Friday in the Square from 5 - 8pm. The show opens with the spicy Cuban-infused sounds of Guaracha, while headliners John McDonald and The Mango Men transforming the Square into a tropical party with reggae and merengue jams.