I caught up with Ron, the latest entrepreneur to bring his great idea to Franklin Avenue, by email yesterday, and asked him a few questions about his new Neapolitan pizza place. Here's what he had to say:
When do you hope to open up?
We are hoping for late fall if the stars align.
What's going to be on the menu (pizza, of course, but anything else?) and what will an average entree/personal pie/whole large pie with one or two toppings cost?
We will serve an incredibly delicious Neapolitan pizza. These are individual pies cooked quickly in a wood-burning oven at super high temperatures. The result is a delicious crust that is light and airy with just the right amount of "chew" and toppings that are not overcooked, so their unique flavors can shine. We will have a simple pizza menu as it's my philosophy that simplicity makes people feel comfortable. The menu is still being developed but I am guessing there will be about eight pizza choices, with perhaps a daily special. Prices will start at about $9 for a Marinara, perhaps $10 for a Margherita, and more for the others, but we will do everything we can to keep the prices low and still run a business that can afford to pay its bills.
The salads will be organic and locally sourced wherever possible so that a pizza lover can bring a dieting friend. We will have several choices; again, still in development.
There will be a few other appetizers, all cooked in the wood burning oven -- think warm octopus, or shrimp.
Will the bar offer anything in particular? Cocktails? Wines to match with pizza? Beer on draft?
Yes, yes and yes. We will have a full liquor bar. We want this to be an option, not just for dinner, but for people just looking to have a beer, or cocktails after work and late at night.
What will the hours be? Lunch and dinner? Open late? Serving food late? Brunch on the weekends?
We will start with dinner only, and roll out from there. I imagine, because of the neighborhood, we will expand the dinner hours late first, so that those drinking at the bar can have a food option, even late into the night. From there, I imagine weekend brunch hours. Down the road ... lunch if it seems called for.
Will you have a menu for pick-up/delivery?
We will offer pick-up very soon after opening, if not right at the beginning, and, when all systems are go, we will do deliveries.
Will you occupy both of those storefronts at 781, or only one?
We will be in both storefronts, which actually connect in the back in what will be an amazing seating area. There is a small backyard, and we should have that up and ready by the time the warm weather comes in Spring 2011.
Will you be hiring locally?
Yes, preferably! I really want this place to be a community restaurant -- by and for!
Do you have any other restaurants in the NYC area?
I have 20 years of experience in the food business. Early on, I launched Minter's Ice Cream Kitchen, on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village. Minter’s was a Best Bet in New York Magazine for being the first ice cream parlor in New York to mix candies, cookies, and nuts by hand on a marble slab into fresh ice cream - a preparation now made popular by Coldstone Creamery. I then opened Minter's second location at the South Street Seaport. I also started and ran Minters Fun Food and Drink, a full-scale restaurant and bar in the courtyard of the World Financial Center across the street from the World Financial Center. At the same time, I owned a coffee catering company that ran espresso bars on the trading floors of Merrill Lynch's NY headquarters.
Tell me more about this wood-burning oven--how'd you get it, where in Italy it's from, what inspired this particular endeavor, etc.
It's a handmade oven made in Naples by a family that has been making ovens for over 100 years. The Italians are best at making these ovens, which burn much hotter than typical pizza parlor ovens, and that is why the pies cook so quickly. It also is what makes it so difficult to master. I am lucky that I have been trained in Italy by members of the same family that makes the ovens. It is a pizza enthusiast's dream to have this knowledge and skill ... and few can say they do.
Why Franklin Avenue? What do you think of Crown Heights and the area in general?
I love the mix of people in this area! I looked at so many parts of Brooklyn (I knew I wanted to be in Brooklyn, because I believe that Brooklyn now IS New York ... the Manhattan I knew as a much younger man has become too corporate and decidedly uncool ... !) and when I saw the space, I really flipped because of it's special architectural qualities. I could really visualize an amazing restaurant in the space. And then, I spent a few months just getting to know the area, and it is the people in the area that had me sold. It is a neighborhood with all kinds of people -- I want this to be a social place for all of them. I want it to be an important part of a lot of people's social lives.