Washington Square West: Reliving the Past at Pine Street Pizza
Having been in business since 1983, Pine Street Pizza, located at the intersection of 12th and Pine Streets, will celebrate its 31st anniversary on April 25. The Washington Square West neighborhood pizzeria has seen the many changes the community has gone through and has retained much of its original atmosphere making it a little piece of history.
“Things were a lot different in 1983,” said Christina Bouikidis, the current owner of Pine Street Pizza. “There were a lot of vacant lots. It was a place where you would come to work and then go home.”
Her father, Prodromos Bouikidis – known as Paul to the locals, opened the pizzeria during a time period when, as Bouikidis explains, it was common for the people of the Greek community to open pizzerias.
“That’s just what the Greeks did back then,” said Bouikidis. “You didn’t need to know the language.”
The pizzeria is known in the community to be a popular place with local police officers. Bouikidis feels that Pine Street Pizza became popular with many local police officers because of her father’s friendliness and his offerings of discounts to the officers as a way to give back.
“I do take care of them,” said Bouikidis. “They’re like my friends. A lot of them I’ve known from like 20 to 30 years ago. I guess it kind of keeps the neighborhood safe because they’re always around.”
Some people feel that the number of police cars that are parked outside the pizzeria at night has helped keep the crime rate down.
“The area was different than it is today, safety wise, even just walking outside,” said Bouikidis. “You didn’t want to walk around by yourself at night. There was a lot more crime.”
Pine Street Pizza is not just a popular place with local customers, it is also popular with the workers. Eric Winslow, an employee at the pizzeria, who has worked with the business for more than 23 years said he feels like family.
“I can’t leave this place,” said Winslow, who has another job as a sneaker salesman but has a certain loyalty to Pine Street Pizza. “Always donating, always giving back to the community. They’re always wanting to give back.”
Bouikidis said that she loves the neighborhood and feels that her Greek background is most likely a big reason why she likes getting to know people in the community and getting involved.
“I gave pizza to this school for a math competition,” said Bouikidis. “I donate to the park. I get involved when they need something food wise. I try to help as much as I can. Any kind of community thing, if they ask for it.”
Although Pine Street Pizza is a pizzeria first, they have also had contributions to the community that were not necessarily food related.
“I voted in Pine Street Pizza,” said Ali Shaprio, 35, a Health Coach who has lived in the neighborhood for about eight years. “It’s the voting precinct and I know people love it there.”
Being located on Antique Row and in the middle of the Gayborhood, Pine Street Pizza has seen many changes with the community as a whole throughout the years. Bouikidis explains that in the past, there were a lot more antique stores on Antique Row. Now, she said, it’s more like “Arts Row,” because of all the art galleries that have moved in.
And from what she remembers about the Gayborhood, it was always there. It has just become more visible throughout the years, which includes the expansion of Giovanni’s Room, the LGBT bookstore across the street from the pizzeria.
Even though the community has gone through many changes since Pine Street Pizza first opened in 1983, the menu and decor of the restaurant has intentionally been kept the same.
“People don’t like change,” said Bouikidis. “There are people who will come back after 25 years ago and they’re like, ‘I’m happy everything is still the same.’ The food is exactly the same. And then, I have people that tell me, ‘Oh you should change a little bit.’ But I’m like, ‘No, because everybody says don’t change it.’”
Besides having Pine Street Pizza, Bouikidis’ family also opened an authentic Greek restaurant called Effie’s, which is located just down the block and across the street. The restaurant was named after her sister and grandmother.
When Bouikidis’ father passed away in 2009, the two restaurants were handed down to his daughters and each has since dedicated their time to their restaurants, Christina with Pine Street Pizza and Effie with Effie’s the Greek BYOB.
– Text, video and images by Susan Dong