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SUPER SARDOS PIZZA

Ask Santo Sardo for an extra napkin and he'll tear yours in half and hand you both pieces.

Need six sodas? He might give you one cup and six straws.

It's all in jest, say customers who frequent Sardo's pizza joint on Ulmerton Road.

Regulars affectionately refer to him as "the Pizza Nazi," after the gruff "Soup Nazi" character from Seinfeld, who demanded his customers follow a strict regimen of rules or risk being banned.

You probably won't get banned from this restaurant, but it's likely you'll take some good-natured ribbing from Sardo. You know you've been accepted when Sardo lays into you, customers said.

It didn't take long for me to see what they meant.

I knew Sardo made his own bread, so I asked if he made the dough from scratch, too.

Uh-oh. Critical error. Now, he had me in his sights.

"See? What kind of question is that? Why would I make my own bread but not my own dough?" asked Sardo, a mischievous grin spreading across his face.

Nearby customers laughed, used to Sardo's quick wit and sharp tongue.

"But, I needed to ask to be sure-" I sputtered.

"Ha! I got to her. You see that?" Sardo asked the customers, who continued giggling from a nearby booth.

And that's when I realized that Sardo wasn't making fun of me. Well, okay, maybe he was.

But he got me giggling, too, by inviting me in on the joke.

You've got to have a sense of humor, Sardo said, especially in the fast-paced, high-stress restaurant business.

Though he flaunts a prickly exterior, Sardo has a heart of gold, customers said.

When a little girl who frequents the restaurant with her family requested cream soda, Sardo stocked up, even though it's not on his menu.

And he didn't have to be asked twice to send some of his homemade tomato sauce to a local teen who is being treated for cancer at a children's hospital in Memphis. Sardo promptly packed it up and shipped it off - free of charge.

When Majella Asforis came in Wednesday to grab lunch, Sardo stopped talking in mid-sentence and turned to her.

"Where you been? Did something happen with your family?" he asked her.

Actually, yes, said Asforis, of Largo. She recently had a death in the family.

Sardo knew something was wrong because Asforis, a regular customer who usually comes in three times a week, hadn't been around lately.

Sardo got up to give her a hug, then told her that her lunch was on the house.

"This is my Cheers," said Asforis, 30.

The family restaurant has operated in the Largo area in one form or another for 30 years. They've been at the Ulmerton location for the past three.

Sardo's bread is heavenly and his pizza tastes like it's straight out of Brooklyn, N.Y., where Sardo grew up.

You've got to check out the authentic Italian food.

Just be prepared to banter.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Where it's at: 10839 Ulmerton Road, Largo. - Call 727-581-9200.

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