Wilton Pizza marks 20 years, serving food for body and soul

Wilton Pizza has become a fixture at 202 Town Green, serving its trademark Italian dishes, along with live jazz. The “jazzeria” will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, according to owner Matt Criscuolo, who is not just a restaurateur. He is also a musician, classically trained at Manhattan School of Music.

Combining his talents, Mr. Criscuolo created the “jazzeria” concept, which was so successful he opened three more such restaurants — Piccolo Pizza in Ridgefield in 1999, Toozy Patza Pizza in Wilton in 2006 and Bistro 7 in Wilton this year.

All of them blend pizza, lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, and other menu items with live music, often with Mr. Criscuolo playing sax with his own band. On the walls hang photos of such jazz legends as Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon — and the late Wilton resident Dave Brubeck.

Wilton Pizza was launched when Mr. Criscuolo was just 21, although he “grew up in the business,” working at his father’s Rowayton Pizza restaurant in Norwalk.

“When I opened Wilton Pizza, I just come home from Norway, where I had been playing sax on street corners and trying to make a living as a musician,” said Mr. Criscuolo, a Wilton resident.

After seeing the difficulties of that kind of career, Mr. Criscuolo decided to go into the family business, but added his own musical spin.

“I learned from my father, Matt Sr., what customer service is all about,” he said. “I learned at an early age that the key to a restaurant’s success wasn’t its slick marketing campaign but the love and care put into every dish. I learned that authentic Italian ingredients were more important than saving a few cents by using inferior ingredients, and I learned that customer service needs to be a way of life, not just an empty promise.”

Another key to his success is “customer-friendly price points,” he said.

Mr. Criscuolo is also known for his community contributions, such as the annual “Charlie Parker Award” at Wilton and Ridgefield high schools, “in which we grant scholarships to students pursuing a college education in music,” he said. Another example is helping the Wilton Encore Club by providing pizza at a recent benefit for the Connecticut Humane Society.

After 20 years in the business, Mr. Criscuolo said, he still doesn’t get tired of pizza. “I love it, and eat it at least once a week,” he said. “What could be better?”

“I am very fortunate,” Mr. Criscuolo said. “I was in the right town, at the right place, and I’ve had our ups and downs, but I am still here. I am very grateful to the people of Wilton for their support throughout these years.”

Information: wiltonpizza.com.