Sopranos Pizzeria in Lockport quickly becoming a local favorite

Manny Serma, owner of Sopranos Pizzeria and Catering, prepares an order on Thursday, Jan. 11th, 2024 in Lockport.

Lockport — HBO fans in Lockport may have noticed a familiar name and face pop up in their city in the past few months.

The visage of Tony Soprano, the notorious TV gangster played by the late James Gandolfini, now smirks down at the customers of State Street’s newest pizza shop, aptly named Sopranos Pizzeria & Catering.

“I’ve always been a fan of the show and of the character, and we needed an Italian name, so what better choice than Tony Soprano?” restaurant owner Emmanuel Serma said. “People love the logo. I’ve seen a lot of people taking pictures of the sign and telling us they’re fans of the show.”

Sopranos Pizzeria and Catering in Lockport is open for take out, delivery or catering.

Although the recognizable sign initially may have driven interest in the new takeout and catering business when it opened in September, its reputation for delicious pizza already has created loyal customers.

Sopranos’ clientele has grown rapidly, and on Dec. 13, the restaurant celebrated its official grand opening with a Lockport Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“It took me by surprise,” Serma said. “I wasn’t expecting such a positive response. We feel that we’ve created the perfect recipe for pizza, and the community seems to love the food. Our business has been growing pretty quickly.”

Sopranos’ “perfect pizza recipe” is derived from the recipe used by Maria’s Ristorante & Pizzeria in Morris, which is owned by a friend of Serma’s. Sopranos’ recipe is a tweaked version of the recipe from Maria’s Pizza including all fresh, homemade ingredients.

“We don’t use anything frozen,” Serma said. “Everything we do – the sauce, the dough – is all homemade. I think that’s what makes it special.”

Sopranos Pizzeria and Catering, in Lockport, supreme pizza is prepared with the toppings on top with ham and bacon instead of the traditional sausage along with pepperoni.

Serma’s first restaurant experience was at Maria’s, where he worked throughout high school while he lived in Morris. He later went into business with the owner when he opened his first restaurant, Forza Table & Tap, in 2020 in Crest Hill.

Forza closed in July 2022 after a shooting took place in the parking lot.

I’m passionate about creating something and seeing other people enjoy it and taking pleasure in it. People giving us positive feedback is inspiration to me.”

—  Emmanuel Serma, owner of Sopranos Pizzeria and Catering

After the closing of Forza’s, Serma rebranded the business on his own, taking items from the menu and what he learned running the Crest Hill establishment to create Sopranos.

Sopranos, which is located at 1527 S. State St., is in a small location and offers carryout and delivery as well as catering.

It specializes in thin crust pizza, while also offering appetizers, burgers and sandwiches.

The biggest hit on the menu is the “Sopranos Supreme,” which is loaded with pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage, mushroom, green pepper, onions and green olive, although changes are coming to the menu soon.

Serma said that within the next month, Sopranos will be rolling out a new menu with several items customers have requested, including deep dish and stuffed crust pizza. The restaurant also is planning to modify its indoor decor in the near future, even though there is no dine-in space.

“We have a decent sized menu already for a takeout restaurant, but we wanted to listen to our customers who tell us, ‘You should have this,’ ‘You should try that,’” Serma said.

Manny Serma, owner of Sopranos Pizzeria and Catering, and his father Hector Serma stand outside the Lockport location on Thursday, Jan. 11th, 2024 in Lockport.

As the restaurant has gained popularity in the Lockport community, Serma, who also owns D&L Plumbing Services, already is thinking of future expansion for the brand.

“Essentially, my goal is to make it into a franchise,” Serma said. “But we want to perfect it in Lockport first and really systemize before we start looking at opening more locations in other towns.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the closure of his first restaurant venture and ongoing issues with inflation, Serma said, it has been challenging getting a business off the ground, but it has been worth it.

“With everything that happened, it’s tough to open a restaurant, or any business,” Serma said. “To do it you have to really enjoy it, and that’s why I got into this – because I enjoy it.

“I’m passionate about creating something and seeing other people enjoy it and taking pleasure in it. People giving us positive feedback is inspiration to me. It makes me want to keep bettering the business and growing it.”