VERNON — After a five-year hiatus from the restaurant business, Pedro Rojas returned in 2020, opening Family’s Pizza and Grinders on Hartford Turnpike.
“I used to work for people for 12 years in a restaurant in Cromwell,” Rojas said. “It got boring.”
To get out of his rut, Rojas said he wanted a job with a bit more independence, and seven years ago, he got his commercial driver’s license.
“I went to drive for Coca-Cola,” he said. “I went and drove tractor-trailer trucks.”
After five years of driving for Coca-Cola — which he still does — he said he was inspired to do something that would have a future for his family, so he decided to return to the restaurant business, not as an employee this time, but as an owner.
“I want to do something and the thing I know is the restaurant,” he said.
“Before, I was in the kitchen. I didn’t know anything about the business before I opened here. Then I learned a lot.”
As to what kind of restaurant he wanted to open, Rojas said he decided to go for what he was familiar with, pizza.
“If you’re a business person,” he said, “you want to know what is going to sell. One thing I know is I know how to make pizza and one thing I know for sure is I’m going to sell pizza.”
The pizza, a Greek pan-style pizza, is made from scratch, he said.
“Every day we do dough,” he said, every day either Rojas or a second employee work on making dough.
His pizza is built differently, he said.
“We put the sauce on first, then the cheese, and the toppings on top,” he said.
“It’s all fresh. The sausage, hamburger, it’s not frozen. It’s all fresh.”
The menu features 16 specialty pizzas, including special recipes such as their Buffalo Chicken pizza with blue cheese, American cheese, celery, hot sauce, and breaded chicken; the Nacho pizza with chili sauce, corn chips, shredded cheddar, and mozzarella; and the Hot Dog pizza with chili sauce, sliced hot dog, shredded cheddar, crispy bacon, and mozzarella.
The most popular pizzas, Rojas said, are the Family Special’s with hamburger, sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, and mushrooms, followed by the Buffalo Chicken pie.
The menu also features 20 toasted and cold grinders and five Parmesan grinders at three sizes: 8-, 12-, and 16-inches.
The most popular grinder, Rojas said, is the Family Combo grinder, with ham, pepperoni, and cooked salami.
“I do like the steak and cheese,” he said. “If I have one for lunch, it’s that one.”
The menu also features a variety of pasta dishes.
“The lasagna is homemade,” Rojas said. “The meatballs are homemade. We don’t buy it frozen.”
The menu also features six flavors of wings, including a secret sauce for their mild wings, Rojas said, that he wouldn’t share the recipe.
“I can’t tell you,” he said. “It’s so good.”
“This place is still growing,” Rojas said about the restaurant. “It’s still a baby. Right now it’s healthy and walking.”
He said it was tough when they started, especially since they opened only a couple months after restaurants were allowed to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s still tough,” he said. “People came and they said, ‘The pizza is phenomenal.’ I give the people good stuff.
As it says on our web page, ‘From my family to your family,’ because it is my family that are some of the employees.”