June 1, 2016 |

Conversation with Serhan Ayhan, Boston Pizza, Queens, NY

By Pizza Today


Boston Pizza

Queens, New York

During a recent move to a larger space, Serhan and sister Rana have become the next generation operators of the nearly 20-year-old pizzeria.

Serhan dishes on Boston’s relocation and redesign

Serhan Ayhan Boston Pizza, Queens, NY

Serhan Ayhan
Boston Pizza, Queens, NY

On pizza style and concept — Ours is a pan pizza with a savory sauce. This helps in giving the crust a fluffier interior while remaining crispy on the outside. We use a Blodgett gas-fired deck oven.

The original business partner came from Boston about 20 years ago and brought his recipe with him. Despite the Boston roots of the pizza, our family is from Queens. As an establishment, Boston Pizza is a family-owned and operated casual pizzeria.

Some of our menu items are unexpected in a pizzeria, like our cheesesteaks, pastas and empanadas. Sometimes our offerings surprise our customers.

On the move and business redesign — It made the most sense for us to move somewhere familiar to our loyal customers while still maintaining a foothold in the neighborhood that has become our home away from home. Once we found out about the availability, moving right across the street was an easy choice.

At the time, I was serving as an AmeriCorps member to rebuild homes that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Far Rockaway. The construction skills that I picked up during my term came in handy when building tables, serving areas and any necessary repairs before moving in. For months I would head over to Astoria after work to help my parents, so I was able to put a personal touch into the new space.

The wood paneling gives the feeling of a classic space, while the metal light fixtures and hot rod red paint job contrast to give a feeling of modernity.

In this new space, the open kitchen area gives us a great opportunity to chat and get to know customers while they wait for their meals. We’ve received praise from our customers for creating a spot that adapts to the new vibe of the neighborhood while still being inviting to anyone and everyone.

Why the change? As the neighborhood evolved, we noticed many aesthetic changes around town. Our landlord in the original location wanted to renovate the building.

The growing popularity and proximity to Manhattan is bringing in a new crowd. When we first opened our former location in 1997, Astoria was a much more low-key part of Queens. Now there are entire food blogs as well as Instagram and Twitter handles focused entirely on Astoria.

Because I am keen on intertwining many of the traditions from my parents in the new space with ideas of my own, I would argue that it’s not so much about changing, but evolving.

The new generation — It was important to our parents that we were a part of this new chapter in our family’s history. My father, Turan, has been in the restaurant business for nearly four decades thanks to his late older brother, Orhan, who originally came to New York in the 1960s to complete his PhD at NYU. In the 1970s, my uncle opened several restaurants that helped pave the way for friends and family to pursue the American Dream. Boston Pizza is just part of his great legacy that we want to keep alive.

Like our uncle, both my sister, Rana, and I have pursued graduate degrees. We asked ourselves how could we lend our talents to keep delivering the charm of our mom and pop shop while adapting to an ever changing industry and neighborhood.

My sister’s communications and PR background brought a great deal to the table, especially with our fantastic new logo and menu items. As for me, I had the opportunity to learn an academic approach to the pizza industry thanks to working on projects with Scott Wiener, like researching and analyzing data on different types of pizza oven fuel sources throughout the 20th century. Working with him has helped me understand pizza in new and interesting ways.