Chino has had many fine pizza restaurants throughout the years. Franchise pizza places such as Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Dominos and Round Table seem to stick around for a long time, but independent places do not always fare as well. Mama Mia’s, Pizza King, Brat’s Pizza and Pizza Peddler are a few that came and went.
Despite the difficulty of being independently owned, one pizza restaurant has stayed. New York Pizzeria opened on the northeast corner of Central and Walnut avenues in March 1984. Bob Gillis had worked in the pizza industry since he was a teen in the 1970s. He learned how to make pizza from a Sicilian family from Brooklyn at a restaurant called Lorenzo’s, in Moreno Valley. While attending the University of California in Riverside, Bob realized that rather than graduating and becoming an attorney, he wanted to own a pizza restaurant.
He continued to save money while working at Lorenzo’s and hanging real estate signs for a developer. He searched for the perfect place to open his restaurant, and picked the newly built Gemco shopping center on Central Avenue in Chino. At age 24 he opened New York Pizzeria on March 1, 1984. Bob vowed to make the best pizza in town, which would be New York style, and knew from the start that his place would become an important part of the community.
In 1988 Bob spotted a beautiful girl going into Fox Photo, a neighboring tenant, and asked her on a date. Jill Wroblewski had grown up in Chino and attended local elementary and junior high schools, and graduated from Chino High. Three years later Jill and Bob were married, and Bob gained a new partner at New York Pizzeria.
Bob and Jill Gillis served Chino and sponsored Little League baseball, AYSO soccer and Pop Warner football teams. Many shared with me their memories of going to New York Pizzeria after a game. Pizza, a pitcher of Coke and arcade games were always a hit with the kids. Birthday parties were celebrated, church and school parties were had and countless sports games were watched at the restaurant. Big screen TVs and cold beer made the experience fun for parents as well.
The Gillis family tradition continues. Their sons Robbie and Michael have joined New York Pizzeria, bringing with them fresh ideas to carry the popular restaurant into the future.
One person who shared memories with me said it well: “I compare all pizza to New York Pizzeria.” Another, a former employee, shared that when he recently returned to the restaurant Bob invited him behind the counter to make a pizza for old time’s sake.
Many things in Chino have come and gone, and have changed, but one thing remains the same…Bob and Jill Gillis’s Pizzeria continues to make memories through cheesy pizza. They have happily served over three million during their 35 years in Chino. Happy 35th anniversary New York Pizzeria.