Standing in her pizza shop early one morning, Priya Malhotra kneaded dough and shredded mozzarella in preparation for the day's lunchtime rush.

It was just past 9 a.m. and Malhotra had already been working for several hours. Her typical workday includes waking up at dawn to get started on her homemade meatballs and marinara sauce, and ends well past midnight, cleaning and closing the restaurant.

"It's isn't easy, it isn't easy at all," said Malhotra, owner of the recently opened Viggo's Pizzeria on N. Dorset Avenue in Ventnor Heights. "But this is what I love, this my baby, and I'm going to grow it up slowly, but surely."

Malhotra, of Galloway Township, opened Viggo's Pizzeria over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, replacing the former Capri Pizzeria.

She was unhappy with her former job as a casino card dealer and was looking for a career change when she stumbled upon the "for sale" sign posted outside the old pizzeria. The discovery, she believes, had to do more with faith than coincidence.

"I was praying to figure out what I should do with my life, and I was asking myself, 'What are you good at? What do you love?'" Malhotra said. "Cooking was my passion, and then I found this."

Viggo's offers a cozy and casual atmosphere with select seating both inside and outside, as well as pickup and delivery options, including delivery to the beach. The restaurant is also BYOB and has some romantic touches, such as a vase of flowers on each table and Italian music playing in the background.

Since the restaurant opened, her customers' reactions have all been positive, Malhotra said.

"People are loving our pizza already, they love the dough, the cheese - it's all about the quality," she said. "They can taste the time and care we put into it."

Rich Kreie, the owner of Custard's Last Stand right next to Viggo's in Ventnor Heights, said he already has tried several items from the restaurant, including the pizza and meatball parmagiana sandwich, and gives the food a thumbs up: "I thought the food was very good, I thought the quality was good, and I can tell you this, that woman is trying her best and putting 100 percent into that business."

Malhotra said that as time goes on, she will tweak her menu based on what works and what her customers want, and she is open to suggestions from the community.

"My goal is serve this community," she said. "If there's a big enough request for something, we'll make it."

Contact Elisa Lala:

609-463-6713

If you go

Viggo's Pizzeria is located at 115 N. Dorset Ave. Ventnor. Take out, eat in or free delivery to Ventnor, Margate and parts of Atlantic City, including delivery to the beach. Free wifi and BYOB. House chefs are Priya Malhotra and Jim Jaraboldi. Call 609-822-2232.