HACKENSACK, N.J. – There’s no way that Frank Daher is ever messing with the pizza sauce, the cheese, or the dough at Mark’s Pizzeria and Restaurant in Hackensack.
The Main Street joint is known for its Chicago-style, deep-dish gourmet pies — a hit since his uncle, Maurice Daher, opened it 23 years ago.
But the marinara sauce -- that’s another story. Daher makes two: a thicker one for entrees and a thinner one for sandwiches.
“I played with the marinara because of the diversity of the area,” said Daher, who is Lebanese. “Middle Eastern, Latino and African-American, they like spiciness a little bit. They like different flavors.”
Since the last stock market crash, the 35-year-old has watched the downtown Hackensack neighborhood change in important ways.
In 2005, the high-rises that line Prospect Avenue drew people who worked in New York City, said Daher, who lives in Garfield. The population was mainly Italian, with some Spanish.
“Some of the middle class left in 2008,” he said. “Now they’re coming back.”
The catalyst is the multi-redevelopment plan to revitalize the city.
Mark’s Pizzeria is right in the middle of the action and that excites Daher. He already has new customers, hailing from Chicago, who moved into one of the new high-rises on State Street.
“They work in the Bronx and they all live in that same building,” Daher said. “That’s good for this town.”
He’s also happy about plans for an indoor state-of-the-art soccer field in Johnson Park, another high-rise where the old Oritani Field Club now stands,and the impending cultural arts complex between State and Atlantic streets.
As the city builds up around him, Daher’s day-to-day efforts are about ensuring quality.
Daher, who has worked at Mark’s for 10 years, bought the place three years ago from the widow of his cousin, Kahl El Sahili.
“We make everything from scratch,” he said. “I’m proud of that, but sometimes I hate it a little bit because it’s a lot of work.”
He insists, too, on only hiring people with “a good heart, good energy.”
Soon Mark’s also will offer whole wheat and gluten-free pizza.
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