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People endure below freezing temperatures for a slice of Sam's Pizza in Wildwood
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People endure below freezing temperatures for a slice of Sam's Pizza in Wildwood

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Sam's Pizza Palace, a Wildwood Boardwalk staple, opens Friday for the 2021 season.

WILDWOOD — “Snow, COVID or ice can’t keep us from our first slice,” read T-shirts marking the 65th anniversary of Sam’s Pizza Palace on Friday as dozens of loyal customers waited in line on an otherwise empty Boardwalk, in below freezing temperatures, to get their first hot pizzas of the season.

Sam’s has been opening Presidents Day weekend for as long as they’ve been in business, said Anthony Zuccarello, son-in-law of owner Sam Spera. Zuccarello has worked at the pizza palace for more than 52 years, he said as he touted the establishment’s top sellers over the years: plain pie, pepperoni pie, and white pizza and broccoli pie.

He has waited on many regular customers since they were teens. “Eventually, I’ll be waiting on their children as well,” he said.

Rob Fischer, a Philadelphia resident with a shore house in Wildwood, agreed with Zuccarello. “Sam’s makes one of the best pizzas on the Jersey Shore. Sixty-five years, and they know how to do it right.”

“I drive here all the way from Philadelphia just to get this pizza,” said Melissa Stevens, adding it’s been a tradition she’s followed since she was a little girl, and has been in line every opening day for the past five years.

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Gina Hall, 51, and her daughter, Ava, came to Wildwood from Philadelphia on Friday to pick up a couple of boxes of Sam’s pies. In the summer, Hall and her family have Friday pizza nights and always order from Sam’s, she said. Their favorite pies include plain, sausage and the white pizza with broccoli.

Dereck Perdomo, 21, and his girlfriend, Haley Sparta, 19, of Cape May Court House, said they come to Sam’s every year on opening day. Perdomo said his usual order is a plain pie with birch beer on the side. The key to making Sam’s the best pizza on the Jersey Shore, according to Perdomo and Sparta, is the sauce.

Candace Ferrari, 26, of Wildwood, said she always comes to Sam’s, but Friday was her first time getting a slice on opening day. She was so excited, she posed in front of the pizzeria wearing a Sam’s T-shirt as her boyfriend snapped a photo.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Sam’s is still thriving and following protocols to ensure the safety of customers and employees. Employees are required to wear a mask, get regular temperature checks, wash their hands and make sure every precaution is taken before the start of every shift.

Zuccarello said Sam’s is only open on the weekends for now, and is not open for indoor dining yet. He said opening at 35% capacity, as is currently allowed under state orders, would only make their customers wait longer.

“When the weather gets warmer, outdoor dining will be a possibility, but hopefully, once Gov. Murphy allows dining at 50% capacity, we’ll be able to open our doors so customers can sit down and indulge in a hot slice,” Zuccarello said.

Until Sam’s is open fully, patrons can order in person for takeout or over the phone from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Masks and social distancing are required.

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