Haddonfield Restaurateurs Debut Pizza Pazza, Betting on Tastes of Napoli to Revive Lunch Crowds


The family behind Verona is expanding in both directions on East Kings Highway, launching a pizzeria in the former Pizza Crime storefront, and redeveloping the former Jay West Bridal into two storefronts.

By Matt Skoufalos | April 15, 2024

Chef Artur Haxhiu (left) and restaurateur Endrit Bodi at Verona in Haddonfield. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Since opening the doors of Verona, a European-style Italian eatery in downtown Haddonfield, the last five-and-a-half years have been eventful for the Bodi family.

Endrit “Andrew” Bodi, his brother Erjon, mother Vera, and father Afrim, haven’t taken a day off — not Christmas, nor New Year’s Day, nor Fourth of July — to make sure that their restaurant, and the Haddonfield dining scene in general, found a sure footing.

“Nothing has been coming easy, but the community support has been unreal,” Endrit Bodi said. “When the [novel coronavirus (COVID-19)] pandemic happened, the only reason why we survived was because we stayed together.

“We’re not a franchise,” he said. “If I didn’t have my family, we wouldn’t make it.”

Amid the changes of the past few years, the heart of the commercial district has welcomed new fine dining restaurants like Wanda and Gass and Main, the cocktail lounge at Wildfether Distillery, and a bigger taproom in a new location from Kings Road Brewing.

So when opportunities to expand — first, by redeveloping the former Jay West Bridal boutique on the corner of East Kings Highway, and then by taking over the recently shuttered Pizza Crime — presented themselves, the Bodis were ready to jump on them.

They’ve gotten the Jay West redevelopment underway, but won’t really begin heavy construction on a new residential component until the fall. However, last weekend saw the soft launch of Pizza Pazza, a traditional, wood-fired pizza concept that Endrit Bodi believes will complement the Italian cuisine offered at Verona next door.

Pizzaiolo Antonio Pietropaolo (left) and Endrit Bodi at Pizza Pazza in Haddonfield. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Pizza “Pazza” — Italian for “crazy” — is built around the same wood-fired Forza Forni oven that provided the backbone of its predecessor.

At its helm is pizzaiolo Antonio Pietropaolo, direct from Napoli, and producing a 100-year-old family recipe.

“It was the right time for him to come to America,” Endrit Bodi said.

“He’s a character.

“I like people with passion; if you do not have passion, you cannot make it,” he said. “You’ve got to be different in this area to compete, so we’re going to try to bring a whole different experience.”

With an overhauled interior, courtesy of Benita Cooper Design, Pizza Pazza is working to deliver a distinct experience for guests who enjoy handmade pizza in an elevated atmosphere.

It’s meant to fit in compatibly with both its sister restaurant, Verona, next door, and Kings Road Brewing on the corner of Mechanic Street, offering light fare for lunch and a refined dine-in atmosphere for dinner.

“You can bring a beer from King’s Road, and wine from Heritage, and sit down and have pizza, salads, and house-made desserts,” Endrit Bodi said.

The menu features a roster of both white and red pies, each built around gourmet ingredients. Red pizzas feature a crushed San Marzano tomato sauce, while the white pizzas begin with a cheese mixture of smoked fresh provolone, mozzarella, scamorza, and ricotta.

Pizza Pazza buffalo caprese and mortadella pizza. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Toppings range from the traditional (pepperoni, meatballs, sausage) to the less common (mortadella, spicy soppressata, prosciutto) to the namesake “Pizza Pazza,” which is topped with hot dogs, French fries, and cheese.

“We’re going to use the best ingredients you can find so you get the real experience,” Endrit Bodi said.

The eatery also will offer takeout boxes for those looking for a portable snack to bring to the nearby downtown brewery, distillery, and wine tasting room.

Each is packed with a mix of fried appetizers like wings, fries, arancini, mozzarella sticks, pizza rolls, and even spring rolls.

But Bodi is most hopeful that the signature lunch menu at Pizza Pazza, which includes schiacciata sandwiches and house-made pastas, will reinvigorate midday action on the block.

Schiacciata is a Tuscan flatbread that is thinner and chewier than focaccia, and will serve as the basis for sandwiches like the mortadella, fresh mozzarella, and pistachio cream; or prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, arugula, roasted peppers, and fresh basil.

In addition to those sandwiches, familiar fresh pasta dishes —spaghetti carbonara, linguini with clams, fusilli with meatballs, and paccheri Bolognese — will only be served at lunch, so the Bodis don’t cannibalize their dinner business next door. The closeness of both operations suits their household as well as its style of cooking.

“Italian cuisine is a simple cuisine; a family cuisine,” Endrit Bodi said. “You have to have that feeling of a family in the kitchen.”

Endrit Bodi outside of Jay West in Haddonfield. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

While Pizza Pazza gets rolling, and Verona rolls along into its sixth year of operation, the Bodis are also readying another project on the block: a mixed-use redevelopment of the former Jay West Bridal shop.

The corner property at 151 Kings Highway East will be transformed into two separate retail storefronts, each about 1,300 to 1,400 square-feet apiece, with finished basements. Stacked atop the property will be a pair of two-bedroom condominiums overlooking the downtown intersection at Kings Highway and Haddon Avenue.

Project architect Thomas Wagner has designed the building to retain much of the Jay West façade, so passersby at street level will have a familiar experience.

“Sue had started plans for upstairs; we’re just finishing the job that wasn’t finished,” Endrit Bodi said.

As far as the retail spaces are concerned, the family doesn’t have any firm plans, and isn’t in a rush to make them.

“Whoever’s going to rent the commercial space will have a beautiful building to move into,” Endrit Bodi said. “We’re going to get a tenant because it’s a premium location, but we want to get what’s best for the town.”

Jay West redevelopment rendering. Credit: Thomas B. Wagner, Architect.

Adding more residential units to a shopping district that always welcomes more foot traffic seemed like a net benefit for the neighborhood, regardless of whomever occupies them.

Endrit Bodi has seen enough of the commercial scene evolve in the half-decade he’s been a part of it.

“Six years ago, when we first opened Verona, Haddonfield was a boutique town,” he said.

“After 8:30, it would die. That’s not what Haddonfield is now.

“Haddonfield might have been known for a lunch place, but never for dinner,” Endrit Bodi said. “Now you have 15, 20 restaurants. Our vision is to keep this European-style, historic town with nice sidewalks as a hangout for families.

“Every investment we make in this town is going to be variety,” he said. “We want to be the best of what we do, and give back to the community. That’s our vision. I think this is the peak of Haddonfield as a town, and our vision is to hold this for the next 20, 30 years with hard work.”

Pizza Pazza is located at 139 Kings Highway East in downtown Haddonfield. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and until 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit pizzapazzahaddonfield.com.

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