Thursday, September 24, 2009

Locals Only: The Space That Eats Pizzerias

Just a short bike ride up the hill from Casa de Jetpacks, across the street from the Baptist church that flashes damning messages on its marquee to the local heathens, is a small cluster of shops that includes a grocery store, a dog groomer, a dance studio, a pharmacy, a Subway, a pool supply store, a liquor store, a Wendy's, a veterinarian, a convenience store and a hair salon. There is also a space apparently reserved just for pizzerias. In the six years I have lived in the area, it has been Anthony's, Antonio's, Alberto's and Victorio's. Each of these incarnations billed themselves as a "Ristorante/Pizzeria" with some sort of claim to "New York Style." I suspect the names were made up, since Alberto's was owned by a Serbian who employed Czech and Ukrainian waitresses and a Bolivian chef, but they played the Italian stereotype thing well. For many months in any given year, the space stands empty, daring the next entrepreneur to make a go of it. Christopher has accepted the challenge.

Like some modern day Arthur, Christopher is hoping to extract the fabled profit from this hard rock of a location where many other brave restaurateurs have failed. He is convinced that he alone is the One True King of Pizza who will rise above the countless "New York Style" pizzerias that pepper every strip mall in Florida. I really hope Chris makes it work. We tried his offerings last night and it was the exact same food the previous pizza pretenders created, the usual fare associated with such places; veal Marsala, eggplant Parmesan, fried calamari, pizza and pasta. They delivered. It was good.

While he has apparently simply made copies of the previous restaurants' menus, there is one thing Chris is doing differently that should work in his favor. I stopped in on the way home from work to grab a menu, and to my surprise there were no Chianti bottles on the tables with dripping candles stuck in them. I didn't see any "We Will Never Forget" 9/11 posters. There were none of those poorly painted Tuscan landscapes or faux brick windows adorned in painted vines and grapes. I didn't hear Frank "The Wank" Sinatra in the overhead music. No pictures of Stallone, Dean Martin, Pacino or De Niro. No Sopranos, no Godfather and no old Empire State license plates hanging on the walls.

Good luck, Christopher, if that's your real name.

Previously in Locals Only.

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  • The proof is in the sauce! Every successful pizzaria has an amazing sauce--and it's always run by Papa from the old country and his brood of pizza kids. You can't fake the good Italian stuff.

    By Blogger Teenie, at September 25, 2009 at 4:16 PM  

  • The reason why the place is a magnet for restaurants is that it's vented. It's expensive to vent a kitchen from scratch. A lot of commercial space owners don't want the hassle of dealing with the vents if the restaurant folds so it's not easy to find a new location. If it's already vented you've saved money and hassles on a new start-up. And really this isn't a trivial cost. It can be 50 grand to put in new vents. A pizza place that doesn't have a liquor license is really cheap to start up if you don't have to vent.

    By Blogger Dean ASC, at October 15, 2009 at 6:20 PM  

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