Baggios Keeps Pizza Prices, Food Constant
Fort Lee's Baggios, purveyors of fine Italian food and thin crust pizza.
Baggios Restaurant and Pizzeria was founded in 1998 when brother-in-laws, Fatmir Kodra, 48 and a resident of Fort Lee, and Naso Ramusi, 40, from Staten Island, bought the former restaurant at 210 Main St. and gave it its current name.
Upon entering the restaurant and making introductions, a customer named Vince said, “Stay hungry my friend, come to Baggios.”
Coming to the United States from Albania in 1998, Kodra has a financial and business background.
Ramusi, who is from originally from Montenegro, came to the U.S. in 1990.
Ramusi had 10 years experience working with his brothers at Pomodoros in Station Island. His brothers had come to the states in 1985.
Both Kodra and Ramusi are soccer fans. In the mid to late 90s, Roberto Baggio was known as the best soccer player, and being fans, the name “Baggios Restaurant and Pizzeria” was born.
The inspiration came from a business standpoint. Kodra lived in Fort Lee and wanted to make money. Because Fort Lee, as Kodra put it, “is a nice place to live and to develop something specific,” and after much research, Kodra realized Italian food would be a profitable enterprise so he followed his instincts.
He added, "It’s a good, strategic place and a nice place to work; We’re one of a kind with authentic food."
At that time, the stock market was booming, and the economy was in good shape. But the rent was high for a small business. Compared to now, a more conservative time, Kodra said, "Everybody was on the same level."
"The globalization of the entire small business owners were directly involved in the cooking, buying supplies and managing a business and put in extra hard work," he said.
Equal partners, Kodra and Ramusi got to where they are today by doing it all, and they plan on continuing.
In 2011, Kodra and Ramusi made a wise business decision and bought the Vietnamese Restaurant at 212 Main St., next door to their restaurant.
"Since the rent was higher at the old address, making the renovation and creating more room was more affordable," Ramusi said.
The renovation took from August 2011 to around the week before Christmas.
Kodra added, “It provided a better layout and also provided room for an outdoor café, behind the restaurant.”
Kodra explained how staying put is fortunate for them, as they haven’t been hit with the economic crisis even though there are difficulties in dealing with the high prices of products bought to prepare the food for the variety of dishes on the menu.
Any person, regardless of nationality or origin, knew Italian food. The new name at 212 Main St., Baggios Italian Bistro & Artisan Pizza, was born.
“Customers continue to recognize the good quality food and keep coming back for more,” said Kodra.
Ramusi also said doing business in Fort Lee enables him to meet interesting people with different backgrounds. He compares his experience behind the counter to tending bar.
The original team is still working for them, from preparing, serving and delivering food, to helping keep the business in check.
Alice, a new waitress, mentioned that she is planning on painting some scenery on the outside patio, a new addition.
“It’s been really nice working here," she said. "Everyone is so nice; the food is great so it gets real busy.”
Alex, 18, a waiter with the restaurant since February who grew up in Fort Lee and has been coming to Baggios since it opened, said he started as a delivery boy and now does both.
"The place is great, there’s nothing more to say," he said.
Competition doesn’t pose a big problem for Baggios. They serve a wonderfully different thin/crispy pizza.
“We use a natural sauce and high quality cheese," Kodra said. "This kind of pizza is rare because of the way it is prepared and the special high quality ingredients making the pizza tasty. It’s also different because of the special oven we use. This is why customers come from all over town and from out of town.”
With the high price of products, Kodra said they try their best to keep prices reasonable.
"I am proud to say that since 1998, we’ve only had three modest increases," he said.
Parking, however, is a problem, given Fort Lee's traffic congestion, although Kodra noted that there is a parking lot attached to the outdoor patio, allowing direct access to the restaurant from the back.
With the planned large-scale development at Redevelopment Area 5, Kodra sees more traffic on Main Street as a plus. It would attract more customers, he believes.
Kodra does wish there were more attractions on Main Street for people to enjoy—more retail, more cafés, more service business. Presently, he plans to stay put.
"I would like to make it possible to make the appearance of the buildings on Main Street more attractive, more inviting," he said. "There should be recognizable architecture."
Kodra feels Fort Lee should be the Champs Elysees of the county. Geographically speaking, Fort Lee should imitate New York with tables outside on the sidewalk of the cafés and restaurants, he believes.
“I would propose to stop traffic at certain times of the evening, making it only for customers," Kodra said. "Fort Lee should be made like another Soho, Greenwich village, making it more visually inviting.”
He added, “I think some changes would be welcome for everybody; looking for unity in the borough should be a priority.
Kodra has two daughters, 16 and 14, both attending Fort Lee High School.
Baggios Italian Bistro & Artisan Pizza is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and noon to 11 p.m., Sunday. For quick and prompt delivery, call 201-585-7979 or go online and order at mypizza.com. Catering is available for all occasions.