Living The Dream (And The Nightmare): Small Biz Year 1
Updated: Jul 20, 2019
The award for 2018-19 best rollercoaster in Orlando/Kissimmee goes to....PIENEZZA PIZZA! Its's hard to believe we have been around one year already! It's even harder to process the amazing ups and downs this first year has handed us. But we are gonna do our best to share some of those amazing moments. Buckle up!
Anyone who has ever spent even a week running the floor as a server, or in a dishpit slinging grease, or on a cooking line creating meals, knows that there is a strange magnetic force the restaurant business has on the human soul. There is just a way feeding people—and the hustle and teamwork that comes together to create those meals—infects you. There is an equal stress and satisfaction, and a camaraderie that is accessible to anyone willing to join the team. Our family not only has a history in the pizza business (our grandfather Vincent Cavaliere was the first pizzeria owner, and one of our married-in great uncles was the first pizza maker hired at the historic Patsy's in East Harlem, NY), but also has spent years working to serve others in seeing their restaurant dreams coming true. After years of dreaming, planning, and building, seeing that first pizza in the over was amazing.
DREAM: The Roadtrip.
In March of 2018, just after officially signing our lease, the hunt was on. Our first score was a set of double-deck Marsal and Sons ovens, which we were able to find at the right place and in the right condition in a warehouse in—Brooklyn—of course! So into a pickup truck jump, me, my 7-yr old son, and two of my dear friends for a 3-day cannonball road trip to the Pizza Capital of the world. These ovens were the best way to go for our version of Brooklyn-style New York pizza and we had to beat a NorEaster that blanketed the roads with snow and ice. We made the trip a mini foodie excursion, stopping at a hidden empanada stand in Georgia, a great taco spot outside of D.C. (on both legs) and Junior's bakery in Brooklyn for the cheesecake, an egg sandwich, and pastrami on rye. Once we landed at the warehouse, The ovens and a few fridges were loaded onto a u-Haul with pipes and levers—by hand—and now you can see it all at work putting out some of the best pizza I've worked with in 30 years in the biz.
NIGHTMARE: The Fastest Honeymoon Ever.
The fun of pulling all-nighters died with the birth of my first daughter. Once I was forced into them, the excitement ended. So pulling an all-nighter the day before our final construction inspections was torture. Having managed all of the construction, the weeks leading up to our open were 90+ hour work weeks trying to make deadlines, and that last all-nighter was like pulling out fingernails. Thankfully, we passed all of our inspections with flying colors, but the soft-open celebration we had for friends and family was like some weird hallucination and grand opening week was probably the most stressful of our family's collective lives. Pair that with the reality of owning a 7-day-a-week business setting in, and that there were no more days off coming for a longggggggggggggggg while, and all of the nostalgic feelings about owning our first restaurant went "poof!"
DREAM: "My First Day Home Since I Moved Here."
This one sums up why we do this. Shortly after we opened, I recall approaching group of new customers and asking how they were doing. "Terrible." Replied one elderly lady. "I hate it here." She then told my wife and I about how she disliked being in Florida, and that she felt so out of place. It wasn't like back home, which for here was New York, and she missed home terribly. I told her we were gonna give her a place she could feel home, and that we would serve her pizza that brought her back. She thanked us and then sarcastically replied "We'll see." WAs we served lunch, we continued to converse and laugh together about "back home" and how our family transitioned to make Florida a home we love. As we were clearing here table, she grabbed my hand. I remember she looked at me in tears and said, "Thank you. This is the first day in a long time I really did feel like I was home." Done. It all was worth it in that moment.
NIGHTMARE: No A/C. On a Friday. In a Pizzeria.
Pizzerias are hot. Pizzerias in Kissimmee in August with no air conditioning are hot as Hades. For the new guys on the block It was an absolute nightmare to come in on a Friday—traditionally a pizzeria's busiest day of the week—with a rooftop A/C that was blowing hot air. Who do we call? I dunno. Don't have a guy yet. How much will this cost? Mort than we have. How long will this take? This is gonna end up on Yelp. O.M.G. When everything's brand new to you and you aren't yet sure where the heck in the walk-in cooler you're gonna put the pepperoni, every problem is a BIG DEAL. Losing our A/C was like a baptism by air hotter than fire. I wish that on no one. One day I'm gonna chat up Shadrach, Meshack, and Abendnego about whether or not it was different walking into an actual fire.
It ended up only being one day, but man was it a long one.
DREAM: These Guys. We Have The Dream Team.