Love bloomed in the Catskills and at Village Pizzeria

| January 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

THEY OPENED Village Pizzeria 24 years ago and celebrate 42 years of marriage.

Steve and Nancy Cohen, owners of Village Pizzeria on Larchmont Boulevard, met at Queens College in New York.

They had mutual interests and friends, and one weekend Nancy asked Steve for a ride upstate to her friend’s bungalow.

During the summer and on weekends, Steve worked in hotels in the Catskills. Top stars and comedians performed at what was then known as the Borscht Belt. Nancy’s family had a bungalow in the woodsy mountains.

But this particular weekend she wanted a ride to her friend’s place.

“She didn’t even invite me in,” Steve said last month of the hour-and-a-half drive on a pouring rainy night long ago.

“It wasn’t my place,” she replied with a laugh.

Romance eventually blossomed, and the couple is celebrating their 42nd wedding anniversary this year.

Most everyone who visits Larchmont and enjoys a freshly baked pizza (everyone, then) has seen Steve juggling pizza pies and pouring beer on tap with Nancy and their two children Alicia, 35, and Matthew, 30, also working at the restaurant — before the pandemic.

Steve has always worked different jobs and acted the consummate businessman, even back in the disco era when the couple, still as friends, frequented Studio 54 and other Manhattan clubs, when he wore his hair long and drove a customized van.

THE COUPLE, Nancy and Steve Cohen, met at college.

Once a couple, they drove cross-country to visit his brother in San Francisco, where Steve popped the question: “What’s the deal?”

They drove back to New York and made it official with a family ceremony before heading back west to settle in San Francisco.

Steve sold hip jeans and opened a store on a trendy street. Nancy donned polyester dresses and worked as a rental rep for Hertz Rental Car Co.

The young couple rented an apartment in Twin Peaks with a view, and later bought a duplex, with his parents upstairs and the couple living downstairs.

“It was an incredible, wonderful time with our young children,” Steve recalls.

Nancy eventually joined the family business at the clothing shop, while Steve and his brother ran the wholesale end — which grew into the Cohen Brothers. It was the greatest sales team on the West Coast, Steve said.

Their merchandise included sample lines from the season plus casual cotton, surfer and officially licensed Looney Tunes and major sports team wear. Business was soaring until overseas trade deals and the meltdown squashed their business plans.

While celebrating his softball league’s victories and defeats at the family’s favorite hangout — a Village Pizzeria in San Francisco owned by fellow Brooklyn natives (though Nancy is from Queens) — they heard one of the pizza franchises was for sale, and they soon bought it.

Some time later they wanted to move to Los Angeles, where Steve’s brother had relocated, to be closer to his family. They opened Village Pizzeria on Larchmont 24 years ago in a former bakery after gutting the space and building their pizzeria from scratch, filling it with collectable toys, neon signs and sports memorabilia.

It was a perfect fit. “I love pizza and sports and endless beer on draft,” said Steve.

They also bought a home around the corner on Lucerne Boulevard.

Before the pandemic, the family worked with a 30-member staff. Now they shuffle pick-ups and deliveries with a handful of employees.

Nancy also enjoyed the restaurant business — before the the pandemic, which has been stressful, she said.

But she takes it in stride, like she does most things. “My way of living is to have a good sense of humor.”

And, “I don’t stay angry,” she adds.

After all, they’ve weathered tough times before.

Steve remembers what a friend told him way back … “The way she looks at you. She adores you.”

“That always warmed my heart, and I thought this could be the girl.”

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Category: People

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