Rossi’s Pizza & Vintage Arcade on Monona Drive has been sold to a Boston couple who are renaming it and planning to serve their own East Coast-style pizza. The vintage arcade games will remain.
North Shore Pizza and Subs should open late this month or early next month, said Savannah Laubner, 54, an area Walgreens human resources manager who moved to Sun Prairie two years ago with her husband, Dennis Laubner, 38, after she was transferred to the Madison area.
Ross Parisi founded Rossi’s in 2003, and in 2011, moved it to 4503 Monona Drive, where it became an institution.
Parisi said Rossi’s had 55 video games and was the first arcade in the area to bring back 1980s games. It served thin-crust pizza, 17 types of sandwiches, wings, appetizers, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, ice cream and other desserts.
Business was picking back up after COVID restrictions lifted, Parisi said, but he had trouble finding staff.
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“I saw the quality of my product not meeting my standards because I’m employing 14- and 15-year-olds, which are the only people that want to work for under $20 an hour,” he said.
Dennis, a graduate of University of Massachusetts Amherst, who studied business, has been working at pizza and sub places for 15 years, said Savannah, who calls herself a silent partner in North Shore.
She said the Monona restaurant will serve “Boston, New York-style pizza, Philadelphia, south Jersey, East Coast,” and use fresh tomatoes for its sauce. “No water or tomato paste in our pies,” she said, adding that “all the veggies are fresh veggies.”
Pizzas will be hand stretched and tossed with the dough made on-site, Savannah said. “We don’t order our dough. It doesn’t come frozen. It’s all fresh… Some pizza restaurants, they order their dough and then they stretch it out, but it’s not fresh. Our motto really is quality food at affordable prices.”
A 16-inch large cheese pizza will go for $13.99, Savannah said.
She said the subs, or hoagies, will feature typical cold cuts, and include meatball subs, sausage subs and steak and cheese subs.
North Shore will have beef cooked and sliced on-site for its roast beef sandwiches, she said, adding that the restaurant will also offer salads with steak tips and grilled chicken.
Savannah spoke as Dennis drove to Rhinelander, where the couple was picking up some kitchen equipment. She said they’ve been doing a lot of renovation, starting with tearing out old carpeting from the 2,500-square-foot space and putting in hardwood flooring. They also redid the bathroom and built a small office and a storage area next to it.
While Rossi’s had a busy interior with posters and flags as décor, and sold T-shirts, trading cards, mood rings and gumballs out of machines, the new place has “very clean lines,” she said. “Where Rossi’s was very nostalgic, ours is a very simple Boston theme,” and will include canvas prints of historic Boston.
Rossi’s furniture was mismatched, and Savannah said their new tables and chairs will be more uniform.
She said they scrubbed down the kitchen. “Just Cloroxed everything to death.” They also put in new lighting. She said they will have a couple of tables outside in front. Rossi’s didn’t offer outdoor seating.
There’s a change machine in the arcade area and the restaurant will have an ATM, Savannah said. She said they’ve brought in some new video games, plus Skee-Ball and an air hockey table.
The couple are working with Star Worlds Arcade in DeKalb, Illinois, as Rossi’s did, to run the arcade side of the business. “They brought in a lot of new things and took out some of the games that weren’t making any money,” Savannah said.
The name North Shore comes from the north shore of Boston, where Dennis is from. Savannah was born in Vietnam and came to the United States with her father and sister when she was 7.
Her late father was an officer in the Vietnamese Navy and worked with the U.S. as an ally. He worked right under the President at the time until he was exiled, she said.
“We escaped Vietnam due to his high rank,” Savannah said. “We would have been a target and assassinated.”
Savannah, who graduated from Bryn Mawr College outside Philadelphia, lived in Washington D.C. and Boston for 26 years.
Dennis’ father, a sergeant with the Massachusetts Department of Correction, who is also named Dennis, has come to Monona about six times to help with the restaurant, Savannah said. “He’s a big part of this.”
Savannah said she started working for Walgreens in Boston and was transferred to Connecticut, then to the Philadelphia area. “My final transfer was to Wisconsin. We fell in love with Wisconsin and wanted to put down roots. We bought a house, a little over two years ago in Sun Prairie. And now we are residents of the great state of Wisconsin.
“I’ve asked not to be transferred again,” she said. “They know this is where we’re staying.”
39 Madison-area restaurant, bar and coffee shop openings in 2021, including more on the way