When Riggi’s Pizza was sold in 1979, Jerry Riggi Jr. hoped his family’s traditions would continue to rise with another family who took over.
“When we sold the business, I passed it down to them,” Riggi said. “I told them all the recipes, but they changed it. Why? I don't know.”
Year later, a new idea for keeping it all in the family was born when Riggi’s son, Gary, started working at the Schenectady City Mission.
Every Wednesday, Jerry and Gary come to the mission to teach staff, residents and volunteers how to make dough, sauce and prepare the fresh ingredients for pizza day on Thursdays.
“They know how to do it already. All they do is holler at me if I do something wrong now,” Jerry said. “No, I enjoy the company and I enjoy being here. I really do.”
But the Riggis aren't the only ones enjoying it. What once started as a few pizzas in the kitchen's convection ovens is now a lot of pizzas.
"We were doing like maybe, probably like 500 pieces, and then word got out that we were doing homemade pizzas, and the place just started filling up,” said former mission resident John Lobdell.
And Gary, who had always dreamed of having his own pizza shop, had pizza ovens filling up his garage. Now they’re getting regular use in the mission kitchen.
“It's changed the whole game in the kitchen, so we can expand our menu now and make better things for the community,” Lobdell said.
It's changed the game for Lobdell, too. He was a cook for years, but back surgery left him with an opioid addiction. Eventually, he came to the mission, where he's now on the staff.
Learning to make pizza is a new skill for him and an opportunity for others who are going through recovery.
“It inspires them to see somebody like me make it from the program, so they know if I can do it, they can do it,” Lobdell said.