When I walked into Amore’s, I was immediately greeted by the smell of freshly baked pizza pies and cool breeze of the air conditioner cooled me off from the oppressing heat of summer. Behind the counter was a blackboard gave the day’s pizza specials and listed the types of foods they had available instead of thumbing through the menus resting to the side of the cash register. The to the right seats resembled a 1950’s diner with red leather seats and plastic tables. This was considered the side for the average customer, but to the left was more formal, reserved for parties and gatherings. The restaurant mumbled with the sound of the Wednesday night dinner rush. As most Wednesdays went, there wasn’t the type of rush one would expect on a Friday or Saturday night, in fact, when there are only a handful of bodies in the restaurant, it’s a slow day and by seven o’clock, there were only a total of five people in the sitting area. To the right, close to the window there was a small group of young adults laughing amongst each other, their voices joining along with the sounds of ice falling into cups. The owners of the establishment are Bill and Pam Moscharis.
I decided to ask the Moscharis’ if I could interview them because ever since I have moved to West Chester, I was interested in the restaurant. My family knows the Moscharis and my brother is a close family friend to Pam’s stepson, Christos. Not to mention, Pam has one of those outgoing personalities that would make any interview comfortable and bright.
Pam Moscharis walked inside from her cigarette break, joining me in the party section of the restaurant. Her blonde hair pulled up in a messy ponytail and she wore a gray hoodie, jeans and a comfortable pair of shoes. I wasn’t expecting anything particularly more than casual when you’re constantly standing and moving about a restaurant, even on a slow day. She sat down across from me, placing her back of cigarettes back into the pocket of her hoodie and was immediately ready for her questions. “Is your hair shaved on that side?” She asked, pointing to the right side of my head. She pointed to the side of my head. I had to chuckle with her sudden question. “I was thinking about doing that.” Pam had an accent that I immediately associated with the Italian and Greek side of Philadelphia. It was hard to pin point, especially if one is not from that area.
It nearly twenty minutes before we could get to the interview. We talked about general topics, such as her new house, her husband Bill’s minor stroke and her stepson Christos’ dwindling grades and the Christenings and graduations parties they have to go to every weekend until the twenty-second of July. Pam spoke with dramatic enthusiasm, keeping her story interesting, with an occasional wave of her hands and a dramatic inflection to her voice. After a few minutes we had gotten to business about the origins of Amore’s.
Pam took another minute to make herself comfortable. She glanced upwards recalled the story that Bill told her. Bill and Pam had met ten years ago some time after Bill Moscharis had divorced his first wife. After a couple years of dating, the two got married and with her marriage along with adopting Bill’s children as her own, she adopted his business. Amore was established in 1999 by Bill and eight years later, Pam became apart of the business. Bill was born and spent most of his formative years in Greece, while Pam had lived in Upper Darby, only a thirty-minute drive from West Chester.
“My husband came here in ’85,” She began. “He worked for his uncle in a lunch truck in Philadelphia. And then he got married in ’87?” She said, her voice in an upward inflection as she thought for a second and seemingly decided that the year was sufficient and continued. “And one fine day, he took a stroll up to West Chester he liked West Chester. And at the time Amore’s used to be the Chinese store up the street.. And then five years after that, this location opened up. And he moved it down because business was growing. And two years ago, we bought the tanning salon now and we made the tanning salon into a bigger dining room. But the original Amore’s was a Chinese store.”
Amore’s is located on High Street, which is not that far away from the West Chester University campus. Pam had spoken briefly about the Fat Sandwiches that had become popular in college towns. It’s the only sandwich that they make. If it’s a Friday or Saturday night and the college students are coming back from the local bars, they’re looking for something to eat. Fat Sandwiches are an original of Amore’s or West Chester. Pam had said they started out west in Arizona and continued to expand in popularity in pizza restaurants from there. Fat Sandwiches are mostly meat stuffed into large rolls with French fries, cheese, lettuce, bacon tomatoes and anything you can get into it.
“Bill, because he’s always on the computer and he’s always fishing—he wants to know, about other states and he put it here. They’re good sandwiches, I guess, if you’re not sober because they have everything on them. Like one of the sandwiches have steak and egg, jalapeño poppers, chicken fingers—not boneless chicken finger, bone in.” She said gesturing her fingers to resembling the silhouette of a chicken finger. “Hot sauce, I don’t know how they eat that.”
“Like two o’clock in the morning, if you come here during the school session, if you don’t have that “Fat Boy Pizza” on the shelf, you better have those sandwiches ready. And that’s the only sandwich we have on the menu, you can get that in a seven-inch or a twelve-inch. And they love them.” She didn’t like them and has no interest in trying them and that a lot of the sandwiches had names that included nasty words. “We only list a few of them on the menu, because a lot of the names have the B-word or C-word.” She said dryly. “They’re not very good words.” It’s still a family business and it appeared that she wanted to keep the atmosphere family-orientated, despite if it was a college town or not.
One of their most popular meals is the Buffalo Chicken Wrap. She described in detail what the buffalo chicken wrap contained. “It’s grilled chicken, smothered in buffalo sauce. With blue cheese and American cheese. And you bake it in the oven at 445 degrees for three minutes. Oh and lettuce and tomatoes.” It is a popular dish to order from Amore’s in my family. Both my brother and mother enjoy it so much, they’re likely to order it if, they’re not ordering a pizza.
I had thought that with both hers and her husbands Greek heritage would influence their cooking, but one of their chefs is Italian and they stick to a very basic menu for a pizza shop. “Even though we’re Greek, it’s an Italian restaurant. And we have am Italian chef back there and he has his own secret ingredients for the pasta. Everybody just craves for his food. Dominic. I call him the Godfather.”
We drifted away from the topic of food and began to talk about having a restaurant in West Chester and working in Amore’s. Being in a college town meant that there was more income coming into the restaurant. “Do you think being in a college town helps business?” I asked. Her brows furrowed slightly. The question was obvious, but it was important to hear it in her words.
“It helps.” She said with a nod. “It definitely helps.”
“What about during the summer?”
“Even in the summer—summers are good. ‘Cause you still have summer school—summer sessions and we have a big neighborhood in West Chester, it’s a big community now. It’s growing, it’s building.”
From there, she began to gripe about the small details of working at a restaurant besides working amongst the food and customers. “Help is hard to get. Good help is hard to get.” She said. “Getting a math student to pay attention to the cash register is very hard to get. And I’ve had two or three math majors do that.”
I couldn’t help, but laugh. She was invested into getting another question and urged me to ask another one before she started ranting about math students working in the restaurant. I wanted to know if they had gotten fresh vegetables or if they had gotten it from a grocery store because it was cheaper.
Pam and Bill get fresh vegetables from the farmers markets close by. “We get Jersey tomatoes and—it’s nothing from the supermarket. We have this guy who comes here once a week from this company called Kaplan.” She stood up and stood over me as I was writing down the names, making sure I was getting the name right. “And his first name—I call him Peter, but his name is not Peter. I think his name is Mike. Mike Kaplan. K-A-P-L-A-N. And he goes all the way to Philly to get his vegetables every morning. But they’re from Maryland and Jersey. And I’m sure some of them must be local. Can you ask where I get my meat and poultry because I get it down the street.”
After a brief laugh I asked her. I get it from colonial meats.” She said with assurance. “They’re all fresh.”
I asked her for some final advice for running a restaurant as successful as Amore’s. She said the keys were consistency, quantity, quality and appearance. Even if they’re given some new cheese instead of what they normally use, the customers notice and they complain. She and her husband prefer to keep their products consistent and keep the customers happy, which was extremely important.
After the interview, Pam and I shared a cigarette and sat outside to talk. She talked about her life, comparing it to a movie. “I’ve lived an interesting life.” She said. “You remember that movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding?” She asked me.
“That is nothing compared to my life. Although you can compare my life to that.”
We entered back into the restaurant and asked if I was hungry. After all the talk of food, I decided to take her up on her offer and bought myself a vegetarian pizza. After we ordered, she walked over to where Bill was taking his dinner break. She brought me over, and in front of him on a white dinner plate was a whole fish, with the head of separated from its body with a bowl of lettuce, thickly cut onion, and tomatoes. “This is actual Greek food.” Pam said with a grin.