Like most pizza lovers, John and Denise Scharber were disappointed when Hobnetti’s, a longtime downtown Milaca business fixture, closed last May.
By the time July rolled around and the doors to the popular eatery were still closed, the family decided to do something about it.
The Scharbers, including daughter Bailey, signed a lease agreement with the property owner and officially opened Pizza Central on Nov. 13.
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since opening day, but the family wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We were excited when we moved up here because we had come to Hobnetti’s for the last 15 years,” John Scharber said. “When we saw it was still closed, we said ‘Someone should open that up. The town needs it,’ and things progressed from there. The next thing you know, we were learning to make pizzas. We thought, how hard could it be?”
The answer to that was much harder than they thought early on, but they worked swiftly to remodel the restaurant’s interior, hire a staff of about 20 people, install a POS system and create the menu.
The Pizza Central menu is pared down compared to the previous owner’s menu. Instead of offering tacos, burritos, spaghetti and other options, they decided to keep it simple with pizza, calzones and, yes, the hoagies.
The only family member with restaurant experience is Bailey, a 2012 Princeton High School graduate who worked for eight years at Subway. She worked with management and handled on the food safety. She will handle the management duties at Pizza Central (milacapizzacentral.com).
“Everything is fun about it,” Bailey Scharber said. “I like cooking and managing. It’s been everything we hoped it would be. Everybody enjoys the food and we have a really good staff.”
It didn’t take long for the business to catch on in Milaca. On the first Friday, customers we were waiting up to three hours for either a table or takeout.
“And they were OK with that,” Denise Scharber said. “They were eager to try it.”
“The initial surprise was how busy it can get in here,” said John Scharber, who also owns a business that manufactures commercial store fixtures. “It surprised me that people were willing to wait that long. But the Milaca area has supported us already, and so far we’ve had a lot of positive feedback.” A major point of emphasis for the Scharbers is getting the hoagies back to where they once were. They talked with the original owners and got the recipe to the original hoagie sauce that made them so popular.
With the pizzas, they’ve tweaked the sauce and dough, but John said it’s very close to the original recipe.
“Our goal is to go back to the original Hobnetti’s menu items and get them the way the hoagies were 15 years ago,” John Scharber said. “The outpouring of people coming in has been overwhelming. The community has been fantastic.”