Food — Offering Up A Slice Of Teriyaki Pie

New owners at William’s Pizza bring training (and a bit of Korean flavor) to menu

By Bernard Vaughan

When Peter and Andrea Yoon, a Korean couple who live in Merrimack, bought William’s Pizza, 331 Mammoth Rd., a lot of customers assumed the William’s sign would be replaced with one in Asian script and the shop would be renovated to suit a new Asian theme.

But the sign stayed the same.

The pizza continued. And it still tastes...pretty damn good.

“Being an Asian and owning a pizza and sub shop, a lot of people thought we were going to change everything to a Chinese restaurant,” Andrea said during some down time at William’s, a quaint shop with a cafe-style décor.

“A lot of customers stopped coming in because they thought change of ownership meant change of everything,” she added.

Owning a family-friendly neighborhood sub and pizza shop was a long-time dream for Andrea, who managed a sub shop in Lowell. Peter always loved to cook, but he didn’t think about making a living out of it until he and Andrea and their nine-month old daughter were in a serious car accident. Andrea and their daughter came out of it unscathed, but Peter suffered a torn hernia disc that he still copes with today—he’s been in physical therapy for three years.

Unfortunately, Peter was in the middle of medical studies at U-Mass, and he comes from a very proud family of doctors, CEOs, lawyers and professors; his parents were hoping he would follow his siblings’ path.

“He grew up thinking he had to be a doctor or a lawyer, but his passion was always for cooking,” Andrea said.

“In Korea, it is custom that children should obey parents, always,” Peter, who served as a medic in the South Korean Army, said. 

After Peter’s first surgery—he’s had a number of them—he decided, basically, that life was too short and he wanted to do something he enjoyed.

When the Yoons started looking at potential properties to buy, they immediately fell in love with William’s.

“We were looking for a nice little family-oriented restaurant, and as soon as we saw this we knew it was perfect,” Andrea said.

Peter’s parents were initially unhappy when he stopped going to school, but when the couple set up shop at William’s they changed their tune.

“Peter has to work long hours like he would if he was a doctor, but he’s doing something he loves,” Andrea said, as Peter prepared a pizza for a customer. “The family was happy for him.”

The customers were a little hesitant to return to William’s, but slowly, as they notice the sign is still the same and not much seems to have changed, they’ve been coming back.

“There’s been a lot of surprises and ups and downs,” Andrea said, laughing. “The customers are just awesome—they’re like family.”

Andrea is an engaging, friendly person with a high-pitched laugh, and she gets a kick out of people who are confused by the store’s name and menu and its Asian owners.

“A lot of times they ask ‘Where’d you get the name “William’s”?’” Andrea said. “Newer customers will say ‘You don’t look like a William.’”

The Yoons say their pizza is their specialty, but they also serve all your typical subs, salads and pasta. The menu is pretty much the same as it was under Bill Brennan, the previous owner, except for a few specialty items like beef or chicken teriyaki pizza, which sounds odd but in actuality is unbelievably delicious.

“People that try it love it and always come back for it,” Andrea said. “But, I think most people are like me: when I go to a restaurant and see something that’s not too familiar, I’ll hesitate to try it.”

Though some customers were apprehensive about the change of ownership, others who hadn’t heard the news didn’t even notice the change.

“A lot of customers didn’t even know there was a change of hands,” Andrea said. “They say everything stayed the same.”

For the Yoons, keeping the menu and the shop’s name was an intentional decision.

“I wanted to keep it that way, because I love the way the past owner ran the place,” Andrea said. “His vision was very similar to ours.”

Bill Brennan even stayed on a week after he sold the restaurant to help the Yoons get situated.

“We told him everything’s going to stay the same, but he has to teach us everything,” Andrea said, laughing. “He was awesome about it.”

Along with their teriyaki pizza, about the only changes the Yoons are planning on making at William’s are adding some special family combinations.

“We’re planning on staying here for a while,” Andrea said.

- Bernard Vaughan

 
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