Owner Phil Randazzo, outside his restaurant Pizza Spiga, at 3509 Matthews-Mint Hill Road, is ready to revamp Pizza Spiga to its former glory. PHOTO BY DEREK LACEY

Pizza Spiga opened in 1998, at 800 square feet, serving authentic Italian food and pizza. Within two years, owner Phil Randazzo had to double the size of the restaurant to accommodate the crowds that were consistently waiting in line.

In 2000, Pizza Spiga’s menu progressed, in full Italian style, to include fine dishes as well as the regular pizza and calzones, adding appetizers and desserts, chicken broccoli alfredo, and eggplant rollatini.

The restaurant’s early success was due in no small part to the personal role that Randazzo played in the day-to-day operations. “I do cooking, I can do everything in the kitchen, I can do it all,” Randazzo said.

This do-it-all approach stems from his 45 years experience in the restaurant business.

“I have been in this business since I was 14 years old,” said Randazzo. “I’m going to be 60 in April. So there’s not many people with my knowledge in this business and my years of experience.”

Nearly a year and a half ago, Randazzo decided to retire—sort of. He spent a month in Aruba, and for the last six months has been living in New York with his daughter, helping to take care of her newborn, baby-sitting full time.

But while he was away, the restaurant started to slump, taking a dip in sales and food quality, so Randazzo came back to reinstitute his personal touch, tweak the recipes, and bring the restaurant back to its former prominence.

The first thing he did was to restore the recipe for his pizza sauce, the main ingredient of any pizza. Then, it was on to the marinara sauce and the ricotta cheese. He’s retraining the staff, designing a new menu, and tweaking prices.

Randazzo came back to Mint Hill in September and hasn’t stopped working since.

“I decided to come back and stay for good. I’m here to stay,” said Randazzo. “I’m not leaving and right now I’m here 12, 13 hours a day, open to close”

With “Phil is back” written on the storefront window at Pizza Spiga, Randazzo and company are trying to get the restaurant back to its former prominence, and Randazzo says they are nearly there.

“I think we have the best Italian food in Mint Hill or the surrounding area, whether it’s pizza or other foods.” Randazzo said. “All my years experience in this business, nobody can beat my pizza or my sauce. I challenge anybody to show me they have better.”