ROXBURY, NJ — He operates an Italian restaurant in a town that suffers no shortage of Italian food, so Roxbury Pizzeria owner Albert Lepore knows he must be on top of his game to keep customers happy and win new ones.

Good thing the 51-year-old restaurateur, an athletic guy, thrives in competitive environments.

“I’ve been playing sports since I was a kid,” said Lepore, who competed in college baseball and high school football. When it comes to being a winner — either at sports or at making a perfect pizza — Lepore seems to have the right stuff.

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The scoreboard he relies on these days is the praise of his loyal customers. Many have been enjoying Lepore’s food since he took ownership of the restaurant — up until recently called Casella’s — in 2017.

“Once they taste mine, they come back,” Lepore said.

He cited a recent example: A woman called from Horseshoe Lake Park one afternoon and ordered a pizza. Early the next day, she was on the phone again.

“She said, `I couldn’t wait for this morning to order another one,’” Lepore said. “She said her mouth was watering all night.”

Success in sports requires natural ability, dedication, confidence and years of practice. The same holds true when it comes to crafting great Italian food.

A Family Tradition

Lepore’s natural ability likely comes from his lineage: His parents, Albert and Philomenia, came to America from Naples, Italy. “I am first generation Italian,” said Lepore, who speaks Italian and who remembers wanting to cook since childhood.

His homemade pizza sauce is a family recipe. “I wanted to carry on the tradition,” Lepore said. “In my place, it’s never frozen food. Everything is made fresh daily; fresh chicken, homemade mozzarella, homemade sausage and all salads are made on site.”

Lepore’s first foray into restaurants was a deli in Madison in 1989. “It was a family business and from then on I’ve been working in the food business,” he said. “I worked for Romanelli’s Pizza in Madison, starting in the kitchen and working my way up to manager. I eventually opened my own place in Madison, in the late 90s, called Lepore’s Liquor, Deli and Pizza.”

Lepore later ran the food service at Bailey Ellard High School in Madison. When the school closed in 2005, Lepore opened a small restaurant in New York City.

At Home in Roxbury

“I branched out to try something new,” he said. Eventually the commute from his home in Madison got to be too much, so Lepore began looking for a place in New Jersey, settling on Casella’s.

He said he made a good choice. “I like the town of Roxbury,” he said. “It’s quiet and everybody’s friendly. Madison is like a city. Out here is more like the country.”

Having been one, Lepore has a soft spot for young athletes. “I donate and sponsor many sports in Roxbury,” he said. “Football, baseball, volleyball, swim, cheer, wrestling. I like to give back to the community for supporting me. I even go to the games.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area, Lepore helped with pizza donations to firefighters, ambulance crews and a senior housing center, he said.

The pandemic has been a struggle for all small businesses, but Roxbury Pizzeria is doing well with deliveries and curbside pickup, according to Lepore. He said he has two employees in the kitchen and three drivers so “deliveries are quick.”

Roxbury Pizzeria, a TAPinto Roxbury sponsor, is at 139 Route 10 E., in Succasunna. The phone number is (973) 341-3110. You can order online by clicking here.

Roxbury Pizzeria offers cheese pies for $9.95 on Mondays and Tuesdays, pick-up only.

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