Venice Café and Pizzeria now comes to Indiana by way of Turkey, thanks to a change in ownership.
Sefer “Sam” Cokguler took over the South 13th Street restaurant in July after moving to Indiana from Arizona. He and his family had lived in the Southwest for nine years.
Cokguler, 40, is a native of Izmir, Turkey. While he’s new to the area, he’s not new to western Pennsylvania. He said he’d lived in Pittsburgh before and always wanted to return to the region.
In the past, Cokguler has tossed dough at places such as Domino’s Pizza, Pizza Outlet and Voccelli Pizza. He also worked as a cook in a hospital cafeteria.
He jumped at the chance to have his own pizzeria, even when it meant moving cross-country.
“I like making customers happy, and I enjoy making pizza,” he said.
Making pizza means working from scratch and using his own recipes, he said.
“We make a lot of things,” he said.
Among those are his own sauce, dough and salad dressings.
He’s also taking steps to make the pizzeria’s selection his own.
“I want to put a lot of new items on the menu,” he said.
He’s happy, however, to leave certain things the same — specifically, the pizza shop’s name. Customers, he said, were good with it, so he chose to leave it as is.
The pizza place opened in 2008, he said. It had gone through previous incarnations as a Voccelli Pizza and a doughnut shop, among other business ventures.
Cokguler said he hopes his business will become a place where he can give back to the community through letting area charities use his parking lot for fundraisers, be they bake sales or car washes.
“I like to help the locals,” he said. “I’m open to people.”
From the sounds of it, it was more than business that brought Cokguler to Indiana.
He describes it as a “great place to raise a family” — including wife Dilek, 41, a daughter, Diler Su, 7, and a son, Altan, 3.
“I like to be in Indiana because it’s a small town and everybody knows everybody,” he said.
Venice Café and Pizzeria is at 504 S. 13th St., Indiana, across from the IUP tennis courts.