Garrattsville resident Scott Strain, 42, is rediscovering his passion one slice at a time.
Together with his wife, Christina, 42, the Bronx native opened Scotty’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, formerly Lovett’s, at 136 Main St. in Morris in mid-June.
Scott and Christina, friends since seventh grade, have re-imagined the one-time pub-style pizzeria as a family-friendly Italian eatery and, in the process, realized Scott’s longtime restaurateur dreams.
“I worked right out of high school as a sous chef at the National Arts Club in Manhattan and I did that for five years,” Scott said. “Then I did heating and air conditioning for 10 years … and when we moved up here (13 years ago), I started work for a manufacturing company, commuting to Cortland every day. But my passion was always food and I always said, ‘I’d love to have a restaurant.’”
Fellow pizzeria owners got him back in the kitchen, Scott said, and his growing disenchantment with a 15-hour weekly commute, plus opportunity, provided the final push toward business ownership.
“Two years ago, my wife and I were sitting at Pizza 23 in West Oneonta eating lunch,” he said. “We got talking to (owners) Richie and Penny and found out their cook had just quit. My wife said, ‘Scott can cook,’ so I started doing a couple nights a week and it sparked me.”
“I’m very family-oriented,” he said, “so everything’s about my kids and … once school would start, I’d stop working for Pizza 23, but I went back the following summer. By that time, I was tired of the commute, I was stressing out, Lovett’s became available and my wife said, ‘Maybe it’s time. Why don’t you open your own place?’”
“When you wake up each day doing something that you don’t love, it pays the bills, but it doesn’t feed your soul,” Christina said in a written statement. “Scott was in a very sad place in his life and felt … that it was too late to make his dream a reality.”
While wrestling with what to do for her husband, Christina said, she noticed a Facebook post announcing the property’s availability. A screenshot later, she said, her husband had reached out to the former owners and the purchase process was started. Scott said he assumed ownership in late March.
Before reopening the restaurant, Scott said, he took the pulse of Morris-area diners.
“They wanted a family restaurant that they could bring their kids to and have a nice dinner and a nice time,” he said. “A lot of people are really enjoying the pizza — it’s a thin crust, New York City-style pizza and I’m told the sauce is really good — and we do wings, heroes, salads and we just introduced some dinners.”
“We want to cater to what the town is looking for, so that’s what we’re feeling out before introducing a full menu," he said. "Right now, it’s just dinner and weekly specials (such as) chicken parm and eggplant parm, and that’s doing really well. We’re working on our beer and wine license … so that should be any day now and we want to expand to doing local beers and wines.”
“Our goal is to make it a family-friendly, warm environment,” Christina said. “We want everyone to feel welcome.”
Customers, Scott said, include a mix of locals and visitors.
“We really did have huge support from the town (of Morris) itself, and now we get people popping in from everywhere," he said. "We have a lot of downstate people coming up and (customers from) Gilbertsville, New Berlin and even West Oneonta. They’re all coming out to see it and we are starting to get regulars.”
While patrons are praising the changed pizzeria, Scott said, he, too, appreciates the difference.
“I needed something where my happiness was,” he said, “and I haven’t felt this good in years.”
Scotty’s is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and closed on Sunday and Monday.
For more information, find “Scotty’s Pizzeria & Restaurant” on Facebook or call 607-285-4008.