April 30, 2024

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria Brings New York-style Favorites to Leesburg

4.7 min read| Published On: April 30th, 2024|

By Cindy Peterson

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria Brings New York-style Favorites to Leesburg

4.7 min read| Published On: April 30th, 2024|

For the Love of Pizza

As any pizza connoisseur knows, all pizzas are not created equal. There’s Neapolitan, Chicago deep dish, Sicilian, Detroit, St. Louis, Greek and even California style. And then there’s New York-style — thin and crispy, dripping olive oil. 

 That’s what Brooklyn’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant owners James and Shawna Pancari brought to Leesburg. This family-owned business is dedicated to delivering the taste of authentic New York-style pizza with a side of hospitality. From the moment you step inside, you’re greeted with the aroma of freshly baked pizza, garlic knots and welcoming smiles. 

“We just have a love for people,” Shawna says. “All the locals have been super supportive and it’s been a great five years.” 

Growing up in New York, James always wanted to own an Italian deli. Instead, he ended up spending 31 years in the Coast Guard, performing drug and addiction operations, search and rescue and eventually reaching the rank of command master chief. He also worked at the federal prison in Coleman for many years. 

Needless to say, his deli dream was put on hold… until the owners of the former Mamma’s Pizzeria in Leesburg approached James and Shawna to see if they wanted to buy the business. 

“We had talked about trying to start a restaurant together,” says Shawna, who had her own successful career as chief financial officer and realtor. “One thing led to another and we ended up taking it over.” 

With no prior experience in the restaurant industry, except for their love of good food, the couple dove headfirst into their new venture. In 2019, both were able to “retire” and go into business together — just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic to hit.  

“We thought this would be our retirement job, but we’ve worked harder than we have our entire lives,” James says. “We decided to change the name and rebrand, too. It took some work, but it was the better move in the long run.”

Throughout the pandemic, Shawna and James wondered if they had made the right decision, but the restaurant was able to stay afloat with takeout and a whole lot of love from the community.   

 Over the years, Brooklyn’s Pizzeria evolved from its original, smaller location in the Winn-Dixie Plaza in South Leesburg to a larger restaurant a few doors down to accommodate its growing popularity. After 11 months of renovating two empty spaces to make one large pizzeria, they were welcomed by a huge crowd eager to celebrate their upgrade. 

“When we started, we were mainly takeout and mostly pizza,” Shawna says. “But now, we’ve been able to expand to a full Italian restaurant.”

James and Shawna appreciate all the community love, as well as being able to work with their kids, who have contributed tremendously to the restaurant’s success. 

On the Menu

With Italian heritage and roots in New York and New Jersey, James infused the restaurant’s menu with family recipes, creating a lineup of Italian favorites.

New York-style pizza crafted with freshly made dough and mozzarella shredded in-house is the signature dish at Brooklyn’s Pizzeria. Perhaps the most identifiable ingredient is the thin and crispy crust made with extremely filtered water.  

They offer a selection of gourmet pizzas, including the deluxe, Hawaiian, Margherita, chicken bacon ranch, buffalo chicken, cheesesteak deluxe and white pizza. You can also enjoy calzones and Stromboli with their signature dough. Gluten-free crust is also available.

Beyond pizza, the restaurant offers a full Italian menu.

Start your dinner with an appetizer like the pesto chicken flat bread, Caprese salad, pepperoni rolls, fried cheese ravioli, or Brooklyn’s famous garlic knots. One of the most popular, and somewhat surprising sellers, are the buffalo wings. 

“We’ve been told they are some of the best around,” Shawna says. “You wouldn’t think chicken wings at an Italian restaurant but pizza and wings really do go together.”  

A true Italian restaurant menu wouldn’t be complete without pasta. Their most popular dinners include spaghetti, baked cheese ravioli, classic lasagna and chicken or eggplant parmesan. They also offer chicken marsala, chicken broccoli Alfredo, shrimp Alfredo, carbonara, fettuccini Alfredo and other classic dishes. Gluten-free pasta is available.

While it’s not quite the deli James had envisioned all those years ago, the restaurant does offer classic, New York-style hoagies including The Brooklyn Special (a blend of thinly sliced steak and chicken, sautéed onion and melted mozzarella cheese) or the Italian beef with giardiniera,  paper-thin slices of sirloin beef, slow roasted garlic, oregano, pickled veggies and au jus on the side. Other popular hoagie choices include the eggplant parmesan, Italian, sausage with peppers and onions, the Caprese, cheesesteak, chicken Philly, buffalo chicken or the chicken parmesan.  

Top off your meal with a slice of Brooklyn cheesecake, classic cannolis, tiramisu, lemon leche, or a slice of “The Cake Boss” signature confetti cake, black and white cake, rainbow cake, red velvet cake, carrot cake or chocolate fudge cake.

Weekly specials include Monday spaghetti night — $9.99 for spaghetti, salad and garlic knots. Wednesday, customers can get half-price bottles of wine. Thursday is $1 wing night. And happy hour runs 3-5pm every day. Brooklyn’s also runs a special every day for two 14-inch one-topping pizzas for $24.99.  

Recipes

Pesto Chicken Flat Bread 

  • pizza dough
  • pesto sauce 
  • 4 to 5 oz. grilled chicken, seasoned 
  • 2 to 3 cloves of freshly pressed garlic
  • 2 to 3 freshly sliced tomatoes
  • mozzarella cheese for topping
  • balsamic glaze for topping
  1. Stretch out your favorite pizza dough to make the flatbread and place it on a pre-seasoned flat bread screen.
  2. The dough is not pre-cooked.
  3. Spread the pesto across the dough and place toppings on it.
  4. Cook in oven at 500 degrees for 4:55.
  5. When it comes out of the oven, remove it from the screen and cut it into 8 pieces and drizzle with the glaze.

Jumbo Cheese Ravioli with Homemade Alfredo Sauce

  • 6 jumbo cheese raviolis
    (frozen or pre-packaged)
  • Homemade Alfredo sauce
    see recipe below >>
  1. Cook cheese ravioli as directed.
  2. Place in a bowl and pour homemade Alfredo sauce over ravioli and serve.
  3. We pair this with our signature garlic knots and salad. 

Homemade Alfredo Sauce 

  • 1 oz. garlic butter sauce
  • 8 oz. heavy cream
  • 1 oz. freshly grated parmesan cheese 
  • Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring garlic butter sauce, heavy cream and seasonings to a boil.
  2. Add in freshly grated parmesan cheese and stir until combined.
  3. Remove from heat. 

Caprese Salad

  • 8 fresh whole mozzarella slices
  • 8 fresh sliced whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh basil
  • balsamic glaze for topping
  1. Slice the mozzarella and tomatoes and dice up the fresh basil.
  2. To plate, alternate the mozzarella and tomatoes, adding some fresh basil where desired.
  3. Drizzle balsamic glaze over the entire dish and serve cold.  

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About the Author: Cindy Peterson

Originally from the small town of Berryville, Arkansas, Cindy has become a multimedia specialist in journalism, photography, videography and video editing.

She has a B.S. in Communications from the University of Central Arkansas and is a correspondent for The Daily Commercial, LakeFront TV and Beacon College’s PBS talk show, “A World of Difference,” where she received an Anthem Award and Telly Award.

When she isn’t working, Cindy spends time with her husband, Ryan, and son, David, traveling and taking photos of landscapes and wildlife.

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