Vincent Gentile is a creative and passionate 25-year-old. His 23-year-old cousin, Joe Schinco, is logical, regimented, and determined. Fuse these two young Long Island natives—and self-proclaimed opposites—and you get Blackboard Pizza & Kitchen in New Rochelle, a modern, gourmet take on the New York City-style pizzeria.
According to the duo, one piece of common ground between them is an entrepreneurial spirit. That’s why, when Gentile, who had worked in pizzerias starting at age 14, graduated from the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) in 2011, he was too impatient to think about the arduous climb through a Michelin Star kitchen that normally marks the path to culinary greatness. It’s also why, when Schinco graduated from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and spent a year consulting for Accenture, he felt his time was better spent climbing a ladder of his own making, not a corporate one. Schinco says he was excited about “the idea of creating something from nothing, creating a brand.” So the two opened Blackboard in 2012 and, shortly after, an off-premise dining service that includes portable pizza ovens and high-end food options, paving what they saw as the quickest route possible to master chef and CEO.
Their model was simple but—to their eyes—relatively untried in New Rochelle. “I saw a disconnect between high-end and fast casual,” says Gentile. “It was either peasant food or expensive food.” So, with Gentile in charge of the food and Schinco heading up the business aspects, the cousins aimed for “elevated” fast casual. They were careful to use high-quality flours and cheeses, local ingredients where possible, and plenty of classic French and Italian cooking techniques usually reserved for restaurants commanding much higher prices.
It’s paid off. Pizza is competitive in the area, but, day after day, Blackboard is packed with students from Iona College (which is a block away), New Rochelle regulars, and curious diners from surrounding towns. They come for what Gentile says is “the best New York regular slice around” and for tantalizing experiments like the balsamic focaccia pizza: balsamic- and EVOO-infused crust, plum tomatoes, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, basil, balsamic reduction.
The pair also has created what they believe could be the Next Big Thing in pizza. Says Schinco, “Long-term, our goal is to build a brand, something that’s much bigger than these four walls.” They are currently scouting for a second location.
Both agree their partnership is an ideal foundation for exploring Blackboard’s potential. “You do have a lifetime of personal experience with each other,” says Schinco. “So that gives you a pretty rare understanding of your business partner, something most people aren’t fortunate enough to have.”