Arkville welcomes new pizzeria with a tried and true recipe

By Julia Green
Locals knew it as PJ’s Pizza, but there’s a brand new establishment in place in Arkville. Donatello’s Pizzeria opened in the former location of PJ’s Friday, according to owner Donald Engelhardt.
The establishment itself may be new to the area, but its pizza recipe will be familiar to longtime area residents who may have frequented LaBella Pizza in Margaretville.
“There used to be a gentleman that owned LaBella Pizzeria, Nick Malaxos,” Engelhardt said. “A lot of people still remember that place. He’s now moved to Grand Gorge, but Nick originally taught me the business when I was 15 or 16 years old. I’m actually using Nick’s recipe here.”
Malaxos currently runs the Pizza Palace in Grand Gorge.
“I know the business very well and I think it’s a fantastic recipe,” Engelhardt said. “I have a lot of faith in my product.”
Engelhardt has been in the pizza business for nearly a decade and has operated pizzeria- and Italian-style restaurants in Buffalo and Kingston. He had been interested in the PJ’s location for a few years when it recently became available. A native of the Catskills, Engelhardt spent four or five years in the Marine Corps before entering the restaurant business and ultimately returning to the Catskill region. Engelhardt’s father is the pastor at the Catskill Mountain Christian Center.
The tried-and-true recipe isn’t the only change Engelhardt is making to the business.
“The atmosphere is also different,” he said. “It’s quite a bit more clean. We like to use old-school respect, and customer service is very, very important to us.”
For diners with short lunch hours or on the move, Donatello’s also features a varied by-the-slice selection in its counter.
“We have a lot as far as selection goes, which you don’t really see in the area,” Engelhardt said. “We have a big selection and garlic rolls on the counter, so hungry people can come in and grab some gourmet slices and take them to go or sit down and eat them in five minutes. It’s quick and great.”
He added that they are considering utilizing a pizza delivery service in the summer, though the plans for that have not yet been laid out.
“We haven’t quite gotten to that point yet,” he said. “But again, the place is totally changed. We did a pretty big rehab on it. Our customer service is, I think, quite a bit better than it was prior to us being here. Product-wise, our customers seem very happy, and customer service-wise we are topnotch when it comes to pizzerias.”
In addition to that top-notch service from its three-person staff, Donatello’s is employing a motto that should appeal to its clientele, both in theme and message: “Beary good pizza.”
“The area is very well-known for black bears, so we’re using a black bear slogan,” Engelhardt said. “Obviously, why we’re using that – we want to do a humorous twist on everything, as far as our marketing scheme goes, and I think a lot of people are enjoying it.”
Donatello’s Pizzeria is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. for dine-in and takeout orders.
And, if you’re looking for a recommendation, Engelhardt suggests his most popular seller.
“People are very interested in our buffalo chicken pizza, which seems to be the new pizza fad,” he said. “And a lot of people seem to like it.”
In just over a week in business, Engelhardt said he has already received a lot of good feedback from his clientele.
“A lot of people have been enjoying it and we’ve been very busy,” he said. “It seems like the local community is welcoming me back in. Already I’ve been open for a week and have had lots of repeat customers – it’s been very good.”