WILKES-BARRE — Dino’s Pizza Express will open at 10 a.m. Monday in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

The take-out only restaurant at 41 S. Main St. next to Thai Thai will sell new New York-style pizza slices for 99 cents and $1.99 with a topping, said owner Dominic Buonsante.

Customers also can participate in a “Slice out hunger” campaign and buy a pizza slice for the homeless for 99 cents. The pizza will be delivered to local shelters, including St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen, the Salvation Army, Ruth’s Place and Catholic Social Services’ Mother Teresa’s Haven, Buonsante said.

The interior of Dino’s Pizza Express includes a mural of classic Italian movie posters. Trinity Artisans painted the mural and antiquated the posters to make it look rustic.

“I wanted to do something since downtown is known for the arts,” Buonsante said.

Sennett Enterprise constructed the store and did a “tremendous job making it look and feel like an authentic New York City pizza shop,” he said.

“I like what the downtown has become,” he said. “I think it’s a better choice than being at the mall. Malls are struggling across the country. Traffic is down and rent is sky high.”

Dino’s has been a staple at the Wyoming Valley Mall in Wilkes-Barre Township for decades. That was his father Gaetano’s first store, founded in 1975.

Dominic Buonsante’s mother, Anna, and brother, Lenny, now operate Dino’s Pizza in the mall’s food court. In June last year, they renewed the lease for two years.

His father has a long history in the pizza business. He was born in Bari, Italy and came to the United States at age 12. While living in New York, he began making pizza at a shop in Manhattan at age 15.

He worked there until 1972 when he moved to Pennsylvania to work at Luca’s Pizza in the Wyoming Valley Mall. After working at Luca’s for three years, he had the opportunity to purchase the shop and he changed the name to Dino’s as a tribute to his father Leonardino.

Over the last 35 years, he has opened eateries across the United States, including Cafe Europa in the Laurel Mall in Hazleton and Dino’s Pizza in the Nittany Mall in State College.

Dominic Buonsante began working for his father at age 13. He said his father passed along his knowledge so that one day he could run Dino’s. He still uses his father’s original recipes. He said he likes that the rent in downtown Wilkes-Barre is a fraction of the price as the Wyoming Valley Mall.

“It was a staple in the mall since it opened so I want to bring it more locally so people don’t have to drive to the mall to get the pizza,” he said. “I want to be in downtown and give back to the community.”

In addition to pizza, Dino’s Pizza Express also will sell stromboli, calzones and wraps. It will be open seven days a week 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and when the temperatures get warmer, it will be open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

dallabaugh@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2115