Antonio’s Real NY Pizza
Estes Park, Colorado
In a nutshell, Antonio’s Real NY Pizza is a full-service pizzeria in Colorado, in a little town called Estes Park. Our store sits in the shadows of Rocky Mountain National Park’s 14,000-foot mountains. We offer takeout, dine-in and pickup. We do not deliver, nor do we utilize third-party services.
Our style is based wholly on the food I grew up eating: Italian food in a very Italian family. The pizza we make today is similar to what you would find from Elmont to Amityville on Long Island’s south shore and Brooklyn, where my great grandfather’s 13th Ave. brownstone still has family in it. These places influenced my taste profile immensely and as was explained to me as I endeavored to learn everything about pizza — your mind has a mental image and taste burned into it from your experiences. When something hits the mark, it’s a moving feeling and I can attest to it. We specialize in Sicilian, thick-crust pizza, the kind I enjoyed at Mama’s in Copiague where Tommy, the owner, gave me tips like Mr. Miyagi did for the Karate Kid so I could make pizza at home to satisfy our family’s cravings. Gino’s and King Umberto’s in Elmont, NY also factor into the mental image our pies are modeled after. My grandma absolutely loved Gino’s Grandma pie and it’s the last meal we ate together. When I released the Grandma pie, it had to be at that level or it was unacceptable. Today, it’s one of our best-selling pies because of the love and history.
How were you able to pivot during the COVID-19 crisis and as we begin to transition again?
The COVID-19 virus was something Tracey, my wife and I watching intently since she is a board-certified RN and has a great understanding of community spread that we now all understand. The last day of dining room service was 3-16-20 in our store and for weeks prior we seated every other table just to be safe. Our dining room seats 160 so it was a tremendous hit to close it, but we innovated the “zero contact pickup” whereby we only accept online or phone orders which are paid in advance via credit card. This was another hit but necessary to keep us safe. No customers have been inside our building since that day. In addition, we established the Friends of Antonio table in front of our building where people could take loaves of bread, flour, rice, yeast and fruit, etc., if they couldn’t afford it. We made literally thousands of loaves of bread and the community supported our efforts with donations of $1 to $1000! It has been wonderful to take care of those in need.
Our next move involves using the parking lot and outdoor spaces to allow large distances between the people once the word is given to open restaurants again. We will literally have porta potties in the lot, too so no one has to come in the building. Outdoor kiosks and online ordering will also help us to have the appropriate distance between people.
Worth noting: During this entire time, we did not lay off, furlough or fire a single person and fed the staff continuously. This innate desire to feed my people is definitely an Italian trait as my great grandmother Anna fed everyone during the depression.
What’s next for your pizzeria after COVID-19?
My belief is that COVID-19 will force us to continually innovate ways to live under a new “normal”. This will require the support of our staff, the belief in our mission along with the cooperation from those who visit Antonio’s Pizza. I hope our protective measures prove valuable and are widely adopted by the restaurant industry.