Friday, April 15th, 2011
Phil Mortillaro has let plenty of people into their apartments when they’re locked out, but he has one rule: If the locked-out person can’t produce evidence of residence – and quickly – the Greenwich Village locksmith will call the police and report a break-in.
Mortillaro, 60, has been a locksmith for 46 years, and says his skills – he claims he can easily crack almost any lock or safe – bring him customers. But his ethical standards keep them loyal. He counts plenty of jewelers and gem dealers among his regulars.
Mortillaro has shaggy gray hair, droopy blue eyes – and two ex-wives. He’s been a fixture behind the tiny counter at Greenwich Locksmiths for more than 30 years. He says school never held his attention – he dropped out before finished high school, and never attended much before then – but he’s always loved locksmithing and art.
A few years ago, he decided to combine his two loves and make a giant piece of art out of keys. He wanted to mount it on the front of Greenwich Locksmiths, to make the shop stand out as quirky and unique in the midst of the increasingly homogenized West Village. Tens of thousand of keys later, his interpretation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night causes pedestrian rubbernecking along Seventh Avenue South.
On a recent weekday afternoon, one pedestrian leaned in close for a better view. “Huh,” he said, to no one in particular, “they really are all keys, aren’t they?”
Friday, April 15th, 2011
Sal Natale has a simple slogan: “Pizza is Good, But Love Is It.”
The pizzeria owner puts his motto into practice at Pugsley Pizza, a popular hang out for students at nearby Fordham University and for Belmont residents. Natale frequently jokes with customers and is known to play the saxophone or trumpet and sing karaoke with students in the middle of the E. 191st Street shop.
Pugsley’s is open daily for lunch, dinner and late night snacking. On weekends and Tuesday nights (many Fordham students do not have class on Wednesday) the pizza joint is open until 4 a.m. to accommodate the late-night bar crowd.
Natale, who has been in business for more than 40 years, runs the pizzeria with his wife, Pina, son Pietro and daughter Alessandra. Though he says Pietro may eventually take over, Natale has no plans to give up his business just yet.
Monday, April 11th, 2011
For years, James Graham swept floors, stocked shelves and emptied trashcans inside city buildings in exchange for his monthly welfare check. To anyone who wasn’t sure, Graham’s badge explained that he was a workfare participant, not a real employee.