There are certain aspects of every good restaurant that jump out and make it special. In the case of Islington Pizza, it's not only buffalo chicken pizza, but also the friendly, family atmosphere.
Maria Tassiopoulos, owner of the restaurant, among other titles, has been in the pizza business for as long as she can remember.
On December 26, 1995, she opened Islington Pizza with her family, which includes her parents, brother and sister. Since the age of 12, she had been helping out with the family business, doing odd jobs around the establishment.
"It's a family ownership," Tassiopoulos said. "And that's not just it. There is a low employee turnover, with some guys working here for several years. It is very family friendly - there's even a playground right behind us."
Tassiopoulos grew up in Dedham and graduated from Stonehill College, where she majored in accounting. Her education has served as a useful skill in her work today, as she handles the accounting for the restaurant.
While she could just be the boss and handle the business aspect of things, she likes to keep an active role in the restaurant's everyday activities.
"I can't just sit back and watch," she said. "I work as the owner, but I also do the register, answer phones and make subs and salads."
After college, Tassiopoulos hopped right into the family business. In the early '90s she owned the Coffee Grinder, which was located right down the road where Dunkin Donuts is now located on Washington Street. The restaurant offered breakfast sandwiches and coffee in the morning, but also served lunch and dinner, as well as pizza.
This was up for three years and then, she said, her father got the family back together to get into a family venture. This was the beginning of Islington Pizza: a restaurant that, since 2006, has won the Gatehouse Media Reader's Choice Award for number one pizza shop in Westwood.
Islington Pizza's location on Washington Street is a prime spot for motorists passing through to drop in and grab a slice, or for the locals who repeatedly come back for more. When asked if there were many repeat customers Tassiopoulos responded with, "Oh yeah!"
Tassiopoulos said that she has a lot of favorites on the menu including a couple subs, chicken parmesan and the steak and cheese, as well as the buffalo chicken pizza. But for patrons not into that style, Islington Pizza also has plenty of other pizzas, hot and cold subs, wings, pasta dishes, wraps and salads.
But not every great dish needs to be something fancy or expensive. Tassiopoulos recommended one salad in particular as a good summer dish that's popular and especially healthy.
Mixed Green Salad:
- Mixed baby greens
- Gorgonzola cheese
- Toasted pecans
- Homemade honey balsamic dressing
- Add grilled chicken or steak tips