gmhTODAY Spring 2022 - Page 40

A Superman and Super Dad

Sal Oliveri ... A True Fighter

by Kimberly Ewertz , photos by Mike Sanchez

Inside Pinocchio ’ s Pizza , founded by Gilroy businessman Sal Oliveri Jr ., his daughter , Gina Polhaupessy showcases a custom made T-shirt which reads : “ My dad was so brave , God made him an angel .”

Gina sits surrounded by countless mementos of her father , miniature Pinocchio statues , movie posters , and photos of his favorite singer , Dean Martin , in the familiar interior of the family business , a staple in Gilroy for the past forty-four years . “ All this little stuff is all my dad , and we keep everything that he loved ,” she said .
The original owner , her grandfather , Sal Oliveri Sr ., opened the establishment in 1978 on Monterey Road . Sal Jr . took the reins when his father retired .
“ We took over the business in 2001 and it became just us three ,” Gina said , referring to her dad , her mom , Victoria ( Vickie '), and herself . Gina ’ s husband , Duke Polhaupessy , joined the team in 2004 .
Although the Oliveri family resided in Morgan Hill , Gilroy has always felt like home to Gina . “ This is where I was brought up , in Gilroy ,” she said .
In return , the Gilroy community embraced not only the family business , but its owners . “ I was searching for a pizza one Friday evening when I found Pinocchio ’ s … it became a habit to have Friday night pizza for the next thirty-five years ,” Pinocchio ’ s customer , Phil Barrett , said . “ I got to know what a wonderful man Sal was , and I was proud to call him my friend .”
For Sal , in addition to running a customer-pleasing business , his family ’ s welfare and safety were always a top priority . In January 2018 when a transient entered the restaurant wielding a knife he literally put his life on the line to save them . Pushing his daughter out of the way , he and Duke wrestled the intruder to the ground . “ He tried to cut my dad in the throat , but my dad held up his arm , so he hit my dad ’ s arm ,” Gina recounted . Sal received thirty stitches but that didn ’ t slow him down . “ He was here the next day with a sling on .”
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