How would you describe Fellini’s pizza philosophy?
Fellini’s makes New York-style pizza with a modern twist, old school meets new school. The traditional New York pizza (which I grew up eating) has a thin crust made from hand-tossed dough, sauce on the bottom and toppings on top. At Fellini’s we do that too, but we also get creative and make some different pies, using whole wheat dough and gourmet toppings.
Are there any toppings that you just wouldn’t put on a pizza?
No – pizza makes people happy, so it’s really up to the person ordering it. We’re just assembling their version of reality. We offer a lot of options, but customers will still ask for specifics, like a fried egg on top or a dessert pizza. You can put anything on a pizza; obviously some things work better than others, but nothing should be off limits.
In your opinion, what’s the most underrated pizza topping?
Definitely anchovies. So many people underestimate anchovies or say they don’t like them, but they add such a unique flavor to a pizza.
What are the most popular pies at Fellini’s?
Besides the classic plain cheese and pepperoni, people love the garden veggie (with tomatoes, squash, onions, scallions, olive oil, salt and pepper) and the steak scallion (shaved steak, scallions, cheese and a creamy parmesan peppercorn sauce).
Tell us about Fellini’s seasonal pies.
We do a pumpkin pizza from Halloween through November. Our famous Thanksgiving pie is only available one day a year – the day before Thanksgiving – and features roasted turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and a side of cranberry sauce. It’s pretty heavy duty. During the summer, our garden veggie pie showcases some of the great vegetables in season.
When did you first learn to make pizza?
When I was growing up in upstate New York, my brother worked at a pizzeria. At 16, I started working with him and he showed me the ropes. We worked together for years – I even went back to work with him on the weekends after I started school in Rhode Island.
Starting with that first job, I’ve spent the last 14 years making pizza. After New York, I worked at a couple different pizzerias in Providence, and I’ve spent the last eight or nine years at Fellini’s.
Did it take a long time to learn to handle dough like a pro?
It came pretty quickly for me. When I first started working with my brother, he wanted a night off and left me to close up the restaurant myself, so I was sort of thrown into it. Anyone can make a pizza, but if you want to know what you’re doing, it takes hours and hours of practice. You have to have fun with it, which makes things much easier. A lot of customers tell me that pizza making is a lost art, and it’s been great to be able to pass that on to the many people I’ve trained at Fellini’s over the years.
Did you go to culinary school?
Yes, I attended Johnson and Wales for their two-year culinary program and then went on to get a bachelor’s in entrepreneurship.
When you’re not at work, do you like to cook?
I work a lot of nights, but I definitely love to cook at home for myself and for my friends. It’s a good way to keep up my skills. My dad and I talk about food a lot – there have been quite a few times when we’ve been on the phone and realize we’re cooking exactly the same thing for dinner.
Is the rest of your family into food?
Totally. When my family first came over from Italy, they opened a bakery and butcher shop, so food is definitely in my blood. I became interested in food at an early age by watching my father, grandfather and uncles cook. Much of the cooking in my family was done by the men. My grandfather would cook just about anything and even raised pheasants.
The men in my family are also outdoorsmen. We take a fishing trip every year and eat all the fish we catch. We go hunting together and make our own venison sausage, among other things.