The ‘Bodega’ Goes Beyond the Corner Grocery Store BY THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

So I was delighted to visit Bodega Pizza in Washington Heights, with its hard-core retro-bodega theme. Candles fill the windows at Bodega Pizza.

Co-founder Jose Morales, who grew up in the neighborhood working in his father’s bodega, remembers corner stores where everyone gathered to drink and play the Dominican lottery. Between paychecks, families bought groceries on credit, running a tab recorded on the back on a cigarette carton.

“I wanted to pay homage to the New York I grew up in,” he says.

The facade of his pizzeria, which opened this summer with partner Angely Herrera, is a yellow metal awning featuring a traditional bodega’s red lettering and flashing bulbs.

The front windows are stacked with green tins of Keebler Export Sodas Crackers, pillar candles and faded Brillo boxes. “Hispanic households do a lot of unnecessary cleaning,” Mr. Morales says.

Inside, there’s a quarter-fed arcade game featuring Pac-Man, Centipede and Donkey Kong. Not to mention a graffiti-covered restroom.

While Mr. Morales’s pizzas are selling well, some older folks in the neighborhood get confused and try to buy the detergent in the window.

Mr. Morales, an agreeable man, says he’ll soon offer groceries along with the pizza. “You can eat a nice pie, have a beer and go home with some soap, cereal and toilet paper,” he says.

As for all the newcomers hopping on the bodega bandwagon?

“Just do your homework,” Mr. Morales says. “If you know the history of it, more power to you.”

Write to Anne Kadet at

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