Lessons from Pops

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You might guess he was Italian from his formal name, Biagio Buffolino. Or maybe you’d get a clue from the name of his restaurant, “New York by the Slice Italian Restaurant.” If you still had any doubt, a tee shirt hanging on the wall of this restaurant might catch your eye. It read, “I’m not shouting, I’m Italian.”

Most of us didn’t know from Biagio. We called the man with the twinkling eyes and the suspenders, “Pops.” When you entered the door of his restaurant you were in for a treat. You were in for an experience where you and everyone around you ate great food and smiled a lot.

Let’s be clear. This is not the kind of restaurant where terms like “presentation” or “flavor profile” get thrown around. New York By The Slice is a restaurant where you got simple and delicious food in a joyful atmosphere.

The atmosphere radiated outward from Pops. He was always smiling. He gestured when he talked. If I was there to pick up an order to take home, we might trade some banter like two old boys from New York City. That’s where Pops opened his first pizza restaurant in 1974.

From New York he went to Maryland, then South Carolina. He got to Hartsville in 2012. Lucky us, we got the benefit of everything he learned along the way. It showed in the food.

You could get what I think is the best cheeseburger in the world, maybe the universe. The ingredients were always top of the line and the restaurant made the bread for the bun. It was the same with the grilled chicken salad, the chicken parmesan, or the french fries. MaryElla (age 8) declared the fries were the best in the world. The last time we ate at NY By The Slice, that’s what she ordered.

The restaurant is still there, but Pops died on November 10. I’m going to miss Pops. Being around him was like catching a bit of sunshine.

But I learned a lot from him. I learned you can do high quality work whatever you do. I learned that if you love that work and stay with it, you get better and better. I learned that joy and quality or a potent mix.

My father used to say that you’re alive as long as they tell stories about you. If that’s the test Pops will be alive for a long time.

Takeaways

If you do something you love and stay with it, you get better and better.

Success is about ingredients and execution.

Quality can set your work apart.

Joy can set you apart.

Joy and quality are a potent mix.

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