One of the pioneers of kosher food on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills turned off its oven for the final time last Friday. Shimon’s Pizza was the popular Thursday night hangout for families who did not cook supper ahead of Shabbos, on Friday afternoons after yeshivos had their early dismissals, and for many occasions that involved a slice, a calzone, or some garlic knots.

“It opened in 196. I’m not sure if it was the first of its kind, but it started as a small store with a bar next to it. There were lines when it opened, as it was the best in town,” said Yaakov Serle, co-publisher of the Queens Jewish Link and a lifelong resident of the neighborhood.

Its namesake was Shimon Gluska, who retired more than 20 years ago and handed the business to Moe Harary, who kept the founder’s name on the store. The landlord of the property has not announced what will become of the site.

“I’ve been to Moe’s home as a little kid in Canarsie; and as a student at Brooklyn College, I remember when he ran its kosher cafe,” said Elan Kornblum, president of Great Kosher Restaurant Media Group. “It’s a Queens hangout; people from 30 to 40 years ago are eating there.”

When he announced the closing of Shimon’s Pizza on his Great Kosher Restaurants Foodies group on Facebook, Kornblum received replies that spoke of memorable life moments that took place at this pizzeria.

“The day of Game Six of Mets-Astros in 1986, I missed family dinner because I wouldn’t leave the TV until the game was over. After the Mets win, I walked over to Shimon’s to celebrate over a couple of slices,” wrote Yitzchak Hollander, in regard to the last time that the Queens baseball team won the World Series. “To this day, I’ve never found a spinach slice the way Shimon’s made it, with cheese on top of a layer of creamed spinach, and no tomato sauce.”

The announcement brought longtime customers, neighbors, and former Kew Gardens Hills residents back to Shimon’s for a final taste.

“When I told my grandmother in hospice that Shimon’s was closing, and she asked me to get her something, so I went back to get her the grilled onion slice,” wrote Dani Sobin. “I then went back with family again for dinner and got a full pie of pizza, four spinach slices, an olive slice, another grilled onion slice and a falafel platter.”

On my visit to Shimon’s last Thursday, I found customers from Cleveland, Boca Raton, Far Rockaway, and Great Neck, all of whom once lived in Kew Gardens Hills and returned to thank Harary for the memories.

“When we sat shiv’ah for my mother, Shimon’s offered us two pies, but I didn’t call in his offer,” said Dr. Meir Pollack, a Cleveland resident who grew up in Queens. “Now that he’s closing, I’m not going to ask for those pies now.” He purchased eggplant slices with his sister Sani Winokur, who lives in Hillcrest.

“We measure other pizzas by Shimon’s. This was always the best place to be and still is,” said Boca Raton resident Rafi Draiman, who shared a slice with his youngest son Yehuda, who is 14 months of age. “Our oldest child is 17 years old, and now they’ve all eaten at Shimon’s.”

Far Rockaway resident Zippy Fodiman grew up on the same block as the pizzeria and returned for a last bite with her mother Toby Offen, who lives nearby. “At age four, my mother let me pick up my first pizza. I jumped up and shouted my order. It cost 75 cents then,” she said. “When my boys in Israel heard that Shimon’s is closing, they asked me to freeze a couple of pies.”

Great Neck resident Joey Brody went for a final purchase with his father Dr. Paul Brody, who was one of the first customers at Shimon’s when it opened. “It’s certainly my favorite pizza shop in the world, but also my favorite eatery, in general,” exclaimed Joey. His mother Drora had an additional bond with original owner Shimon Gluska, the original owner, because they are both Israelis of Yemenite descent.

Dr. Brody fondly remembers many of Shimon’s siblings, including Sam z”l, Eli, and Natan, who each had a “kesher” with the introduction of kosher pizzerias in Queens, starting in Rego Park.

“I vividly recall Shimon’s congeniality in the very narrow pizza shop, which began with the corner store, and eventually expanded to the store next-door, into what it looks like today,” stated Dr. Brody. He also noted the manager of Benjy’s, who had his start at Shimon’s and returned to it in its last couple of days.

“A very young Moshe was the neophyte ‘behind-the-counter guy,’ who eventually opened Benjy’s near the movie theater. Surprisingly, when we heard last night that the store was going to close forever, my son Joey and I rushed here, to enjoy our last bites. We were very surprised to see the very same Moshe behind the counter, helping Moe Harary, the iconic pizzeria’s second owner, on the next-to-last day of the existence of Shimon’s Pizzeria!”

Aside from its role as an after-school hangout, Shimon’s promoted observance among young yeshivah students by offering a free slice to those who participate in the “Brachos Out Loud” contest. “This year I’ve given out more than 400 slices,” Harary said. When he was not serving customers, he was seen with s’farim, quietly learning at a side table. “I’m not going to be golfing, that’s for sure. I’ll be learning.”

Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, CEO of Chazaq, was pleased to hear that Harary will be learning full-time in yeshivah after retiring. “In the morning at the Chazaq Kollel, I see Moe learning with our rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Michael Mansour. It is impressive.”

Harary also donated pies every Wednesday night to Tomchei Shabbos volunteers, so that “nothing goes to waste.”

During Harary’s tenure behind the counter, the decor at Shimon’s pizzeria was virtually unchanged. On its last day, instead of complaints about its dated appearance, customers spoke of it as old-school and traditional. For a traditional look, customers can go to Naomi’s Kosher Pizza & Falafel, which also has an Israel-themed mural on its wall and was founded around the same time as Shimon’s. It is one of four pizza shops on Main Street.

“Bravo has done a great job with its branding, Pizza Professor has a different style, and there’s Benjy’s. Then there are Elite Cafe and Upper Crust, which are restaurants serving pizza,” Kornblum said. “Bravo is speaking to Moe about recipes to keep the legacy alive, but nothing is finalized.”

Next door to Shimon’s, Max & Mina’s Ice Cream proprietor Bruce Becker wished the best to Harary and noted that customers who purchased a slice at Shimon’s would go for dessert at his shop. “That’s the cycle of life. Everything has its time and place. I bought three slices of eggplant pizza. It’s as good as it gets.”

 By Sergey Kadinsky