CORTLANDT, N.Y. -- A 25-year-old Mohegan Lake resident is living his dream.
Brendan Gelardi recently opened Gelardi's Pizza at 2093 E. Main St. in Cortlandt, fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own pizzeria.
Gelardi worked in kitchens when he was younger, washing dishes.
"I always enjoyed cooking," Gelardi said. "In high school I worked at a pizzeria and just fell in love. I've always enjoyed pizza."
Growing up in a family that enjoyed cooking, Gelardi feels he has found what he was looking for at Gelardi's: good food with a laid back atmosphere.
"I didn't want a restaurant that was too fancy or formal," Gelardi said.
Gelardi, who grew up in Poughkeepsie, said he really enjoys meeting customers and getting to know people.
"I want customers to know my face and my name," Gelardi said. "I don't want to just serve them, I want to build relationships."
Gelardi said one of his dreams is having customers start bringing their families to his pizzeria.
"We want to be a community meeting place," Gelardi said. "I want people to have some food, bring their kids and run into old friends."
Having just moved to Mohegan Lake last week, Gelardi said he is enjoying the area.
"Everyone is very friendly and so polite," Gelardi said. "Cortlandt is such a nice town."
Gelardi's specialty is a grandma's pizza: a thin crust Sicilian with plum tomato and mozzarella cheese. Gelardi said he is passionate about only using the freshest ingredients.
"It's very important to me," Gelardi said. "We don't cut any corners. Serving my customers the best product is my number one priority. Everything I put out, I personally would eat."
Spicy chicken pasta, with grilled chicken, red onion and chopped tomatoes tossed in a spicy-tomato cream sauce, is another Gelardi's specialty. And Gelardi said he thinks he has the best wings in the area.
"They are fresh, never frozen," Gelardi said.
So far, Gelardi said he has loved running his own pizzeria.
"It doesn't feel like work to me," Gelardi said. "I get up every morning and can't wait to go in. It's what I always wanted to do. It's a labor of love for me. I truly love pizza."