Delicious and authentic. These are the words customer Kristina James used to describe Sandro’s Pizza and Pasta.
Friendly, generous and caring. These are the words James used to describe its owner, Sandro Osmani.
“Honestly, you go to Sandro’s to see Sandro,” James said. “He lights up the restaurant, he makes it what it is.”
Sandro Osmani spends long days making pizzas, running a cash register, managing staff and giving old and new customers alike reasons to come back to his Norman restaurant.
Sandro Osmani has been the owner of Sandro’s Pizza and Pasta since 2008, but he has been serving Italian cuisine to the Norman community since he worked for his father at Campus Corner’s New York Pizza starting in 1996. The restaurant business seems to run in the Albanian family, with his grandfather once owning a restaurant in the family’s home country of North Macedonia, formerly known as the Republic of Macedonia.
Sandro’s menu is extensive, offering pizza by the slice, whole pizzas, sub sandwiches, pastas, chicken entrees and more. The pizza is a favorite for many longtime customers of the restaurant, but Sandro Osmani also will occasionally make something not on the menu at a customer’s request.
‘My business has been successful because people know me’
James is a self-proclaimed “super fan” after being a customer of Sandro Osmani’s for 14 years. James said she has celebrated her birthday at Sandro’s for the past 11 years, and the two years before that at New York Pizza.
There’s not a place to find better pizza in Oklahoma than Sandro’s, James said, whose personal favorite is the Margherita pizza.
Sandro Osmani’s wife, Kim Osmani, said she knew her husband could be successful in opening his own restaurant because of the clientele he had built up from working for his dad for over a decade.
“A lot of the people who came to New York Pizza came because of him,” Kim Osmani said. “They came to see him, they came to have a conversation with him.”
Many of these customers followed Sandro Osmani to his new restaurant in 2008, and he said in the 11 years since he’s opened up his restaurant, there have been some ups and downs.
Certainly there has been competition, as he said more than 30 new restaurants have opened up on Main Street alone in that time.
Despite this, Sandro Osmani said he does not advertise his business because loyal customers are the ones who keep it going.
“My business has been successful because I’ve been serving Norman since 1996,” Sandro Osmani said. “People know me.”
James said she and the Osmani family are now very close. They celebrate birthdays together, their children play together all summer, and they recently went on a trip to Dallas together.
“And that is how it is at Sandro's,” James said. “If you befriend them, you're basically friends for life with them. That's just how friendly they are.”
‘It’s hard on a family’
Kim Osmani said another reason they decided to open up Sandro’s was so he could be his own boss and have a better quality of life.
“New York Pizza had a bar, and a lot of the fraternities and sororities and clubs and organizations would want to ... have events there until 2 (or) 3 in the morning,” Kim Osmani said. “And that just was getting very old ... with him going home and not going to bed until 4 or 5 in the morning and having to get up at 9 o'clock and do it all over again.”
While things are better now, Sandro Osmani still works long hours. He arrives at the restaurant around 9 a.m. and usually doesn’t leave until 10 p.m.
Kim Osmani said if there was ever a time where the business had the money to hire a full-time manager, they would, but that time has not come. With two kids, she said it’s hard to be the only one able to drive them around, and it’s hard for the kids when they’re already in bed when their father gets home.
“It's something (the kids and I have) grown used to. You just have to,” Kim Osmani said. “It stinks because he misses a lot, and he would love to be able to be at everything... It's hard on a family.”
Kim Osmani said she tries to bring the kids by the restaurant often to see their dad, whether it’s just for a quick hug or to sit down for dinner. She also said there are times when he can take days off, or a few hours, for special events.
Sandro Osmani said it’s all worth it because of his customers.
“Norman is (filled with) good people,” Sandro Osmani said. “It’s different than anywhere else... and that’s why I’ve been in the restaurant business for a long time here. I’ve been just getting along with them.”
‘He’s just a good guy’
There’s not anything bad to say about Sandro Osmani, said longtime Norman resident and Sandro’s customer Andy Darks.
Sandro Osmani is the “entertainment” at Sandro’s, Darks said. He described him as a goofball, in a good way. Someone who always has a joke and wants to talk with you, wants to get to know you.
Sandro Osmani cares deeply for the community, Darks said. With Sandro’s located right across from Norman High School, high school students eat there every day and have a clear respect for the owner.
“(The students) respect him ... and if an adult comes in, the adult gets to go to the head of the line,” Darks said. “(The students) understand that, they don't gripe, and it's out of respect for Sandro. I mean, he's given kids pizza because they didn't have lunch money.”
He said Sandro Osmani also stands out as someone who cares about his restaurant and cares about people and as someone who is a friend.
“He’s just a good guy,” Darks said. “If you need something, you can go to Sandro and get it. You need a ride at 3 in the morning, you call him.”
When asked what he would say if he was trying to convince someone to check out the restaurant, Darks simply said:
“Go to Sandro’s. It’s the best pizza you’ve ever had.”
Correction: This article was updated at 7:13 p.m. May 21 to reflect the correct spelling of Sandro and Kim Osmani's last name.