Sometimes a quest can lead you all the way back home.
While cooking in the nearly 100-year-old wood-fired oven in my business partner Frank Pinello’s Brooklyn pizzeria, Best Pizza, I knew I wanted to replicate that idea. The Best team had taught me how to make mozzarella, brine meats, and find and use seasonal ingredients. I wanted to recreate all of that, but with my own twist.
I’m a Westchester native, but I had to search long and hard for the perfect spot. Finally, I found it: on a dead end street with no foot traffic. It had a vintage soda fountain bar and a 100-year-old Petersen oven. It’s likely the oldest oven in Westchester and quite possibly the largest wood-fired oven in the country. It seemed like such a shame to let it go to waste. Returning this space to its former glory wouldn’t be easy, but I knew Frank and I could coax the flavors we wanted from the oven. And I knew the exposed bricks and subway tiles on the walls and this dead end street location would give our customers that old pizzeria vibe. That’s something Westchester really needed but didn’t have.
We faced lots of obstacles getting started. We had to bring the space up to code, and that meant finding good contractors, reviving the oven, hiring staff, and getting customers in the door, despite there not being any foot traffic here. You name it, we faced it. We worked extremely hard, got really dirty, and had to be really persistent, but we did it.
In the two years we’ve been open, we have earned so many loyal customers. They love us because they know us and they know we treat them like family. We’re on a first name basis with many of our customers and we remember their favorite orders. Our location and the bizarre parking situation make customers feel like it’s a private club, like they’re in on a secret. The space, the vibe, our personalities, I think these are all reasons people keep coming back and telling their friends about us. But mostly I think they just come for the pizza. We don’t cut corners. We don’t use freezers or processed cheese. We have a small menu because we make everything from scratch. I think our customers can tell that we aren’t just trying to make a quick buck serving precooked food.
I do think this community needed us, a team of young business-minded guys who were born and raised in the area, but I know we needed Westchester. I still get excited every day to see who is going to walk in that door. I want to hear their stories and the suggestions they share. I always tell people that we’re a work in progress. We’re constantly getting better, and this community – my hometown – is helping us do that.
Pizzeria La Rosa
12 Russel Ave
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