Woodhaven is mourning a terrible loss this week. Dominick Brienza, a longtime fixture on Jamaica Avenue, owner of Sal’s Pizza for the last 2 decades, passed away after a brief illness.
“Our hearts are broken,” said Raquel Olivares, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District. “Dominic was a kind and generous man and we are all better off having known him.”
“Dominick was a great man whose commitment to our community ran deep,” said Martin Colberg, President of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.
Dominic was a very familiar face in Woodhaven, having done business on Jamaica Avenue for over 50 years. But his familiarity with Jamaica Avenue went back even further, to his early childhood when he moved here from Brooklyn at 9 years old. He not only went to St. Thomas the Apostle but he went to PS 97 and as a young man he worked as a busboy at Le Cordon Bleu.
Dominick went to Edison High School and then went to City College where he studied to be an engineer but he was looking for something a little bit more hands-on so he switched to education with plans of becoming a teacher.
But it was the 70s and New York City was bankrupt and not hiring any more teachers, so Dominick Brienza took a different path – and we are forever grateful that he did.
He purchased and operated “Dom’s Deli” near the corner of 90th Street and Jamaica Avenue and that was a fixture in Woodhaven for nearly 19 years.
Eventually, the deli itself grew old and needed a complete overhaul so Dominick gutted it out and instead of a new deli he opened a laundromat, which he ran for the next 10 years.
After the laundromat, Dominick was able to put his Education degree to use as a social worker for Catholic Charities, specializing in criminal victim assistance for seniors, an experience he found very rewarding.
But Jamaica Avenue came calling again and he bought Sal’s Pizza, which he owned for the last 17 years. Sal’s was the kind of business that was often the first stop for former residents of Woodhaven whenever they came back to town.
The pizza from Sal’s always reminded folks of the pizza from the old days. But it wasn’t just the tasty food that kept people coming back time and time again. Dominic was a big part of that.
He was a good man, the kind of person you were always happy to see, the kind of man we need more of in the world these days.
Last fall, Dominick was honored by the School Sisters of Notre Dame Educational Center for Women, presented with their Commitment of Service Award.
“He holds a special place in his heart for the education that we continue to offer in this neighborhood,” Sister Cathy Feeney said when announcing this honor.
“An entrepreneur extraordinaire, Dominick has fed generations at his deli and most recently at Sal’s Pizza. Dominick is never outdone in generosity,” Sr. Feeney said.
As word spread around town and on social media, people began to share their thoughts about Dominick and the words kind and generous were frequently used.
People shared memories of Dominick, many of them stretching all the way back to their childhood when he ran Dom’s Deli, which is when I first met him. As a kid, I always admired how friendly and funny he was. Dominick had a great smile and a terrific sense of humor, which is what I will miss most about him.
He was a kind and decent man and he will be deeply missed in Woodhaven and on Jamaica Avenue. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife Andrea and all of his family and friends.
Friends and residents will gather this Thursday evening, June 2nd, at 8 PM in front of Sal’s Pizza at 85-07 Jamaica Avenue to pay tribute to Dominick. Please join us for this Woodhaven tribute to a man most of us knew and loved, a good man who will never be forgotten.