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Corsi's Pizza, longtime Hagerstown landmark, is closing

June 26, 2008|By JOSH SHAW

HAGERSTOWN -- On the corner of Wilson Boulevard and Maryland Avenue in Hagerstown is a house with rose bushes out front and a somewhat unusual parking lot around back, but no one has lived in the house for nearly a decade.

Yet, Peggy Corsi still refers to that house's basement as home, because for 46 years, she has owned Corsi's Pizza Parlour, which operates there.

But on June 29, Corsi's will close its doors.

Customers, some of whom have been eating there since it opened, will have to stock up on jars of sauce this week if they ever want to taste it again.

The business started in the 1950s when Peggy Corsi's mother-in-law, Irene, started selling pizza and sauce out of her home on Pine Street.

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"People would come over and place an order and wait for it in the living room," said Peggy Corsi, who still has her mother-in-law's original rolling pin. "They would just watch TV until it was ready."

It was that type of family-oriented atmosphere that Peggy Corsi wanted to have in the restaurant when she took over in 1962. She said she never realized how true that desire would become.

"If you looked up the definition of a family restuarant, this is it," said Peggy's son, Tony Corsi, manager of the restuarant. "The whole family has worked here at one time. And I remember people coming in as kids, and now bringing in their own families."

Tom Cosens, 53, grew up eating at Corsi's.

"My parents were regulars. They would take us there as kids, and then me and the wife used to take our child out there," he said. "It is a generation thing for the customers, too."

Peggy Corsi lived in the house above the restaurant before selling it to her son and moving out. Tony Corsi moved out shortly afterward to start a family, and the house has been empty ever since.

Except for the basement.

"This past week has been one of the busiest the resturant has ever had," Tony Corsi said.

He takes it as a sign that they have been doing the right things.

"We want people to be able to go out to eat but have it not like being at a restaurant," he said. "It's nice to see support from the community. We try to be personable. We don't want them to be just a number. Everyone has a name and story, and I'm going to miss those conversations."

Those conversations were part of the reason why customers like Cosens kept coming back.

"It is a generation thing for the customers, too," Cosens said. "You get to know the family. They are a good group of people. It's too bad they are closing."

"The hardest part will be letting go of the customers," Peggy Corsi said. "People felt comfortable here. Some of them called me Mom. Their kids would run around and go back into the kitchen. Imagine if that happened at Pizza Hut?"

As hard as it is to say goodbye, both Peggy and Tony said they feel a little bit relieved.

"I'm 78 years old, and I need a break," Peggy Corsi said. "I'm going to rest for a while, and then my sister has a big intinerary of trips planned."

Tony Corsi said it is a break that his mom deserves.

"She will finally be able to take time for herself," he said. "If this place was open, she needed to be here."

Tony Corsi said that he does not have long-term plans for himself yet, but knows exactly what he wants to do come June 30.

"I'm going to the beach," he said. "My wife's going to work and I'm going to the beach."

However, he said he will have his memories.

"There are so many memories from the '70s when me and my sisters all worked here together," he said. "The kids that come in draw pictures on their placemats and we hang them up in the kitchen."

It's all about tomatoes

Customers looking for something to remember Corsi's by need look no further than the sauce.

"The spaghetti sauce was out of this world," Cosens said. "I'm going to really miss them because the sauce is unlike anything I've ever had."

In fact, it was multiple sauces, a different one for every dish, recipes known only to those few in the family who have made it before.

Peggy Corsi said customers have been coming in and asking for eight or 10 jars of sauce to take home. A few have even asked her to sell them the recipes, but according to Tony Corsi, it is impossible.

"There is no recipe," he said. "I don't measure anything, there's no such thing as measuring. If it looks right and tastes right, it is right."

Tony Corsi did say that the secret to a great spaghetti sauce recipe is the tomatoes, something else he will miss at the restaurant.

Corsi got his tomatoes from a family-owned business in Stanislaus County, Calif., and said he will miss keeping in touch.

"They send us a card every month and send Christmas presents to us. It is nice to have family doing business with another family."

Peggy Corsi said she also will miss the employees who have helped keep Corsi's running over the years.

"We have had wonderful employees through the years," she said. "It is hard work, and they showed up every day. Everyone who worked here was a part of the family."

The building has not been sold yet, but Peggy Corsi said she hopes someone will open up their own pizza restaurant.

"That would be lovely," she said. "I hope they keep the rose bushes, too. I'm going to miss them."

Corsi's will be open during its normal hours of 3 to 10 p.m. today and Friday, and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. But Peggy Corsi said customers should expect to wait or should call for reservations because they have been so busy.

"It is all chain restuarants now, so it is sad to see a family-owned business close their doors," Cosens said. "A lot of people still like those resturants. I am sorry to see them go."

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