MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The matriarch of Johnny’s Pizzeria in Mount Vernon, considered by many to be the best in New York, has been killed in a terrible accident.

After closing Friday night, Maria Piscopo, 69, and her son, Joseph Piscopo Jr., were driving home on I-684 when Maria was killed in a three-car crash. Her son was injured but will recover.

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Their many patrons are heartbroken.

“I still can’t believe it. It’s a shock to me,” Victoria Fiorenza told CBS2’s Tony Aiello. “I’ve known them so many years. It’s horrible.”

Maria cut the pies and ruled the counter for 40 years at Johnny’s. People who knew her adored her, describing her as tiny but mighty.

“Maria was the brains,” said family friend Leslie Lief. “She was a quiet person and she opened up her mouth when she needed to and she kept people in line and she kept things running.”

The Piscopo family ran old-school Johnny’s for a total of 75 years. And they did it their way, serving classic thin crust in an old-school atmosphere.

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“No slices, closed on Sundays and Mondays because family is so important,” said Lief.

Johnny’s attracted celebrity admirers, including actor Kevin James and Yankees legend Joe Girardi.

The tragedy comes just two years after Maria’s Husband, Joe Piscopo Sr., died of cancer.

People who knew Maria describe her as a type familiar to many of us blessed with Italian grandmothers – the sweet old lady with a steel trap mind.

“A very hard worker, and just a lovely lady,” said Aurelie Ortiz, another family friend.

In 2011, CBS2’s Tony Tantillo visited Johnny’s for its most famous entrée: Chicken Ala Maria, and declared, “Oh this is heaven! Beautiful.”

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Maria’s recipes and her spirit will live on at this Mount Vernon landmark.