For Tom O’Connor, June 27, 2012 started out as just another delightful summer morning as he opened the doors of the famous Lorenzo & Sons Pizza that had been sitting on the 300 block of South Street since 1988. Around 10:25 a.m. that particular Wednesday morning, a fire sent the entire place up in a blaze that quickly destroyed the Lorenzo & Sons South Street home.
In the midst of his 13th year on the job, O’Connor, 41 at the time, had worked his way up from part-timer to general manager of the iconic late-night venue.
“Heartwrenching was really the only way to describe the feeling,” said O’Connor. “We serve hundreds of Philadelphians every day and we love what we do, so to have that taken away from us like that, it was a heartwrenching experience.”
O’Connor, one other employee and the owner, Giuseppe Pulizzi, along with his dog, thankfully managed to escape the flames unharmed. Unfortunately, the building known for its mega slices didn’t make it.
“It really hit Giuseppe when we were all standing outside afterwards and he looked up at the storefront mural of his dad, which was in the process of being cut to clear smoke,” expressed O’Connor. “It’s still tough to talk about,” he later added.
It could have been over. Lorenzo & Sons could have been gone for good after the events that took place that June morning.
“He was determined not to let it happen. He told reporters and thousands of Philadelphians that afternoon that this would not be the end of Lorenzo’s and he promised everyone we would be back stronger and better than ever before.”
After just over 10 months on the shelf, O’Connor found himself once again opening Lorenzo’s doors on Monday April 29, 2013, with a more modern interior look but the pizza was the same size and just as delicious.
There was still no seating and no public restroom. Not a shot at the people, simply just the way they do business. Come in, grab a slice, and walk out.
“That day was special,” he said. “The place looked great. Everything was brand new but the building still had the same old feel. Giuseppe spent a lot of time with designers and really wanted to bring Lorenzo’s back better than ever.”
Pulizzi even upgraded his father’s mural on the front of the building, symbolizing the restaurants strength and determination to restore dominance as South Street’s premiere pizza joint.
Nearly four years since the reopening and coming up on five years since the fire, Lorenzo & Sons pizza is once again thriving in the heart of Philadelphia’s South Street. According to an article on uwishunu.com, Lorenzo’s is ranked amongst the best Pizza places to stop by and grab a slice throughout the Philadelphia area.
Victor Mendez, a co-worker who was working part-time when the fire took place said, “I wasn’t here when it happened. I was working another job on the side at another place, but I was confident that Giuseppe would make things better again. He always does and that’s why we’re still here.”
O’Connor, now 46, strolls into work every day around 9:45 a.m. ready to serve tourists and fellow Philadelphians the gigantic while still normally priced slices of pizza pie they cherish so dearly.
“I’ve seen a lot in my years here,” he says as he fires up the ovens and begins to wipe down the counter. “I didn’t think I’d be running a pizza shop my whole life but I enjoy every second of it and it’s given me a great life. I’m happy for Giuseppe and his family as well as the Lorenzo’s family which is all of us.”
Now 18 years on the job, a bearded O’Connor politely declined to take a photo in his work uniform, which consists of a gray t-shirt, black sweat jacket, and a pair of jeans, but as he placed the first massive plain pie of the day into the oven, he glanced over the counter and quietly said, “He was right. We’re back and we’re stronger than ever.”