A group of Central Pasco Chamber members gathered in front of Pizza Villa to have its photo taken last week, as the manager of the restaurant received the chamber’s “Heart of Pasco Award.”
What group members huddling together didn’t know — except for Cheryl Will, the restaurant’s manager — was that they were posing in the very spot where the photo was taken for the business’ ribbon cutting three decades ago.
Will has seen a multitude of changes in the Land O’ Lakes community since Pizza Villa began operations at 21501 Village Lakes Shopping Center Drive.
For one thing, State Road 54, which fronts the restaurant, was just two lanes back then, she said. For another, as the community has grown so, too, has the restaurant.
It now has 35 employees, Will said.
What hasn’t changed, though, is the spirit of the Land O’ Lakes community, she said. “It’s very heartwarming. Even though it’s growing, it still has a heart for people. Even though the area has grown, it still feels like family.”
She believes that Pizza Villa’s staying power is linked to its sense of community, its customer service and its good food.
“I’ve got some servers who have been here 15, 20 years,” she said. “I’ve had the same prep people, basically.”
Of course, serving good food is essential for a restaurant’s success, Will said. Some customer favorites at Pizza Villa include the Greek chicken, the Greek salad dressing and the potato salad.
The restaurant’s prices are good, too, she said, noting “we’ve always tried to keep it affordable.”
Pizza Villa also believes in giving back to the community, Will added.
“People come to us, looking for fundraisers, sponsorships,” she said, and the restaurant responds.
In presenting the Heart of Pasco Award to the restaurant, Rosie Heim, the honorary mayor of Land O’ Lakes, read a letter, and acknowledged the restaurant’s many contributions.
In part, Heim said, “Pizza Villa has been actively involved in the community, and you have given back to the community in countless ways. In many instances, your kind deeds may not have been properly acknowledged, as they should have been.”
After Heim concluded her remarks, chamber member April Saland told Will: “You do give effortlessly, and continuously.”
Sandy Graves, another chamber member noted: “You just have a heart for this community, Cheryl, and you have always served it so well.”
Following the presentation, Graves and others gathered near Pizza Villa’s sign and posted a yard sign proclaiming the restaurant’s accomplishment.
As Graves pushed in the sign, trucks driving past on State Road 54 tooted their horns in a show of support.
Will was clearly touched by the honor.
The restaurant is a mainstay in the community.
And, it obviously appreciates its customers, as evidenced by these words written on its front door: “Through these doors pass the finest people.
Our customers. Our friends.”
Pizza Villa is fortunate to have many regular customers, Will said.
Over the years, it has lost some through death and greeted new generations of patrons.
“You see ones that came in as babies, and now they’re coming in with their babies,” Will said.
And, there are some who have moved away, but still come in occasionally.
“We have a lot of people who have left the area, and whenever they come back to the area, this is one of their first stops,” she said.
Billy Fotopoulos is the owner of Pizza Villa, and of ABC Pizza, which also is in Land O’ Lakes.
Revised Oct. 5, 2017