CORNING - With Casey Cleary partnering with his father Bill Cleary as the newest owners of Pudgie’s Pizza on Bridge Street, a third generation Cleary is now part of the family business in an official capacity.

And now that he's overseeing things as general manager and in joint ownership, Casey Cleary said he has big goals and expectations he wants to meet.

“We’re going to increase the business without a doubt,” he said. “With the owner being here, I’m going to get all of the fresh stuff in and make sure everything’s going good. And I’m going to be here to treat the customers the right way. That way… I can take care of them and make sure they’re all being treated right.”

Pudgie’s has locations around New York and stretches into Pennsylvania. But on Bridge Street, Casey Cleary said his store will stay true to the authentic Pudgie’s recipe, but also mix things up a little by going back to original roots.

“We brought back the original pepperoni; we started cooking our own sausage,” he said. “We brought in fresh-packed mushrooms, which (were) the original mushrooms. All the peppers we cut up by hand everyday and cook them up.”

Providing some valuable help and insight is his granduncle Charles “Pudgie” Cleary, one of the original founders of Pudgie’s Pizza. One thing Casey Cleary's learned and knows well, like his granduncle, is that crafting a great pie calls for quality ingredients.

“Big time, for sure,” Charles Cleary said. “If you start with quality products, you’re going to automatically put out a pretty good product.”

Hence the larger commitment toward fresh and house-made ingredients, not that anything was wrong with a hot Pudgie’s pie before.

“We’re really trying to bring in all the original products, and all of the fresh stuff,” Casey Cleary said.

His granduncle is confident in him, despite that he's only steered the ship since early June.

“Casey’s very good and energetic at what he’s doing,” Charles Cleary said. “He’s promoting a lot of good ideas."

Not a bad compliment from a pizza industry veteran.

In 1950s Elmira, Charles "Pudgie" Cleary was beginning his career in the restaurant industry driving an ice cream truck and making pizzas at Moretti’s four nights a week.

Fast forward to the early 1960s, he said he and his brothers Michael Cleary, Sr. and Francis Cleary opened the first Pudgie’s Pizza location in Elmira.  

“(Casey’s) brought up from a family-oriented business,” Charles Cleary said. “He’s doing a good job with the franchise in itself. And it’s his store. He’s going to do a good job for sure.”

Casey Cleary may be a first-time pizzeria owner and general manager, but he doesn’t lack experience. He’s been around pizza and the Pudgie’s name for a large part of his life.

“My dad owns the store (he opened up) in Cortland… and for the last five, six years I’ve been one of the head managers there,” Casey Cleary said. “I’ve been taking on more-and-more responsibility as we went.”

Pudgie’s Pizza on Bridge Street offers sheet and round pizzas with a variety of toppings. The menu also offers subs, wings, stromboli, salads and sides. The menu is available at www.pudgiescorning.com.

To place an order, call (607) 962-7400 or visit the store at 61 Bridge Street, Corning.