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'It’s time': Popular Riverview pizzeria owners call it a career

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Mike and his wife Helen have baked their last pizza and served their final meal. The owners of Bravo Pizza in Riverview, N.B., have sold their business and are now officially retired.

“It’s bittersweet after that many years. It’s time,” said Mike. “It’s hard. It’s hard.”

Forty-six years of making pizzas to be exact.

The Stefanidis moved from Greece to Fredericton in the late 1970s. After a few years of working with his cousins in the capital, Mike opened his own pizza parlour in Moncton in 1985.

In 1988, he opened Bravo Pizza in Riverview, and has been an institution in the bedroom community ever since.

The restaurant, tucked away in a little corner of Coverdale Avenue, is one of the oldest pizzerias in the greater Moncton area.

Mike Stefanidis and his wife, Helen, hold a pizza box. (CTV/Derek Haggett)

When customers walk in they are immediately greeted by old photos of Mike and Helen as well as the youth sports teams they’ve supported.

Not much has changed in the dining room over the years, there’s no need for something new.

The 68-year-old said the secret to a successful business is simple.

“You got to be good to people. You’ve got to be honest,” said Mike. “Otherwise, you’re losing the battle.”

Mike Stefanidis looks at photos of the pizzeria over the years. (CTV/Derek Haggett)

Helen has been by his side for decades, greeting customers and serving their pizzas, garlic fingers, pastas and salads.

The 60-year-old said her favourite memory is seeing all the kids come in.

“They grow up with us. It’s too hard. We say bye. It’s hard, but we can’t do it anymore,” said Helen.

Mike said he’ll miss the kids too, especially the ones who came back into the kitchen to make their own pies.

He watched those kids grow up and bring their own kids in.

“It touches your heart. That will stay with us forever,” said Mike. “I will miss all the people I’ve met through life here. Good people.”

The Stefanidis sold Bravo to another couple around a month ago.

Natasha and Puneet Vwayak have several years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

They promise the recipes, suppliers, and menu won’t change.

Mike Stefanidis stand with the new owner Natasha Vwayak. (CTV/Derek Haggett)Long time customer Ron MacDonald said Mike has been feeding him since he was a little kid.

“Just a great guy. I’ve known him for a long time. Always super nice. What else can you say about Mike?” said MacDonald.

On Saturday, MacDonald got his usual, an all-meat pizza with garlic fingers to start.

“It’s the authenticity of the pizza. He’s got the old style oven with the stone so it’s got that real nice crust. I just love it,” said MacDonald.

Saturday was like a going away party with numerous regulars popping in to say thank you, bring flowers and pick up an order to go.

Helen was emotional and a bit overwhelmed with all the love.

“Happy, because we can’t do it anymore, but some customers I don’t see anymore. But we live in Riverview, we’ll see them,” said Helen.

As for what makes a good pizza, after 46 years, Mike has a pretty good idea.

It’s more than just the ingredients.

“You got to put yourself into it. You got to believe in it,” said Mike.

As the final night came to a close, the Stefanidis once again thanked everyone that kept them in business in Riverview for 36 years.

“From the bottom of my heart I want to thank everybody for their support and kindness,” said Mike. “I’ve met excellent people. I met good people. That’s the best thing in life. Money is not everything.”

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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