Riverside Pizza preps for opening

By Pauline Liu
While the name of Margaretville’s latest pizza establishment is new, the owner and his much acclaimed pizza are oh, so familiar. Nick Malaxos of Grand Gorge and his popular deep-dish pizza known as the “La Bella,” are back in town. 

Malaxos is busily preparing to launch his latest venture, Riverside Pizza, on lower Main Street in Margaretville right across from Margaretville Central School. He hopes to open in early March. 
“Everything is going to be ready by the first of the month, but the health inspectors have to approve everything, so I can open,” he said.

It’s been 15 years since Malaxos closed his La Bella Pizza business on Main Street, after a successful nine-year run.  He took his talent and opened up Pizza Palace on Route 23 in Grand Gorge. 
That business is alive and well and now being run by his son, Bill.

Pizza fame
“Yeah, my dad is kind of famous in Margaretville, because he used to have the pizza business right next to the bank,” said Bill, when contacted by phone.

Why does he need another business? Malaxos explained that he’s making room for his son.
“These are small businesses and enough to feed one family, so now we need two,” he said.  Bill has a family of his own.

Malaxos was born on the Greek island of Karpathos. He and his family moved to New York City when he was nine. Malaxos says his interest in pizza began with the fact that he loves eating it. He learned to make pizza while working at a restaurant in Newport, Rhode Island. He found steady employment working at pizzerias both in New England and New York. 

Twist of fate
How he found his way to the Catskills, was simply a twist of events.
“I was working at a fancy restaurant in the downtown Wall Street area and I had a customer, who looked very sad,” said Malaxos. “I asked him, why do you look so down?” He said. “I bought a pizzeria in Margaretville and I’m having a hard time.’”

Malaxos explained that he agreed to come to Margaretville to work briefly as a consultant. He was familiar with the Catskills, because he had vacationed in the area as a young man.
“I came up to give advice,” he said. “I was supposed to be here for two weeks and I never went back. When I came up, it reminded me of what I was really missing. I just didn’t want to go back, so I asked my wife if she wanted to make the move. The whole family came back here. All four kids got married up here,” he added. Now, Malaxos is the grandfather of eight.

His eldest grandson, Nicholas J. will be working alongside Malaxos and his wife, Kathy, when the business opens.

All in the family
The secret recipes that he uses to make his pizzas are all his own and they stay within the family.
“The dough, the sauce and the cheese, you can’t get them anywhere else,” he said. “I came up with a crust that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. At most pizzerias, the customers don’t eat the crust because it is too chewy, but with my pizzas, they eat the crust.”

Even the cheese he uses is a secret. “I blend my cheese with a secret blend and it is fattening,” he said with a smile. “If people are on a diet, this is not the place for them, I’m sorry to say. I’m not fat because I eat wisely. I don’t over indulge, but there’s nothing that I don’t eat.”

Malaxos is planning to offer specialty pizzas, including one with garlic crusts. He will have pasta, hamburger, french fries, chicken wings, chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks as well as a couple of different salads.
“Just for the Greek tradition, I will have salads and Greek pizza with Feta cheese and Greek olives,” said Malaxos.

Famous pie
Of course, the menu will include the “La Bella,” which Malaxos calls his “most famous pizza.” “It’s a deep-dish pizza without the grease on the bottom,” he said with a laugh.

“There’s sauce and blended cheese inside with pepperoni, ham, bacon and sausage. We add another crust on top of it and more cheese on top of that and then we bake it.” 
Malaxos acknowledges that he is leasing a restaurant space, where several other businesses before him have failed, but he hopes he has a winning idea. He wants his pizzeria to be a fun, family place with affordable prices. He believes that being across from a school and near a hospital will work in his favor. “Most of the businesses that have been here were catering to weekenders,” he said. “The price on some of the items, although the food was good, was a little bit above the affordability of the locals.”

The hours of operation will be Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. Malaxos believes that between 9 and 10 p.m. is a perfect time to catch a last-minute pizza, especially if some people work late or if families are hungry, after attending a late game at the school.

At age 65, Malaxos admits that he’s not ready to slow down, since he’s doing something that he truly enjoys. “As long as I have my health, I will be able to do well,” he said.