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Building a Pizzeria: A Pizzicletta Update

We all followed along as Caleb Schiff built and opened his Flagstaff pizzeria, Pizzicletta. It's been a little more than eight months of wielding the peel and Caleb brings an update on what he's learned about the business, details on his pizzas and menu, wood, dough, and more. More

Building a Pizzeria: Closing in on Opening up

Building this pizzeria has been a complete whirlwind since June 1, and even as I type this post, my notepad is sitting next to my laptop, yearning for my attention. My apologies to all the Slicer's that have been following along and patiently waiting for my next post, but I should let you know this is very likely my last post before opening day, which is scheduled for... drum roll please, July 5th. More

Building a Pizzeria: Behind-the-Scenes

So far I've been telling everyone about some of the major steps and objectives I've accomplished as I open a pizzeria: the local support and lenders, the menu, the oven, the layout, and glimpses of the construction. And now as a businessman, I have to consider how much detail I can and should reveal to all my followers. However, I'm not one that can hide my emotions, as those closest to me could tell you. Making long-term financial commitments to my lenders, committing my foreseeable future to making Pizzicletta successful, and understanding that Pizzicletta and Caleb will soon be an inseparable entity is a HUGE emotional undertaking. The closer these plans come to a reality, the more excited I am for them to be true. At the same time, I am constantly thinking of how I can improve my business model to ensure success. More

Building a Pizzeria: The Space

I believe a successful restaurant is a combination of great food and entertainment, so I consider both. Thankfully for me, wood-fired pizza offers a menu that provides both: when properly executed, the pizza tastes great and the preparation and baking of Neapolitan pizza provides the entertainment. So today I want to take you on a short tour of my space and the surrounding neighborhood. More

Building a Pizzeria: The Oven

Every aspect of building this pizzeria excites me: talking to my lenders, finishing my floor plan, choosing the lighting, developing the menu, purchasing the mixer. However, perhaps no singular aspect excites me more than purchasing my oven and yesterday, I sent my first wire to a bank in Naples, Italy. More

Building a Pizzeria: Feeding the Dream

Today I want to go into a bit more detail about how I got to this point and those in my community who have fed my dream of opening my own pizzeria. It has been a bit like those first few minutes of a roller-coaster ride. Although I didn't know it at the time, building my home oven was like clicking down the restraining device. Once constructed, the oven lit something inside of me that I couldn't stop. More

Building a Pizzeria: First, a Dream and a Lease

On Sunday night, the new NBC reality show "America's Next Great Restaurant" was launched. Coincidentally, this week Slice will be launching a mini-series that tracks my own work towards turning my dream of opening a wood-fired pizzeria into a reality. Thankfully I won't have a quartet of investors from the NBC show breathing down my throat, but with this mini-series, I hope I will receive the sage advice of Slice readers. More

A Slice of Kenya: Building a Pizzeria in Nairobi, Part 2

Matt,

It was a pleasure to share a bit of Pizzicletta with you. Glad to hear it was fruitful.

You're right that staff meals are some of the best times at Pizzicletta and I'm glad you shared in it too. I feel fortunate to work along side great people every night.

Stay safe,

Caleb

Paulie Gee on Belief, Baltimore, and Being Your Own Boss (Part 1)

This is a wonderful piece and I echo many of Paulie's emotions. Thank you Lance and thank you Paulie for giving me some of your time in 2010. It's a wonderful adventure when you take a leap.

Chris Bianco Talks Pizza, His New Restaurant in Tucson, and Beyond

So many true words here. I feel fortunate to be in here in AZ with the Bianco family. They do great things for all of us.

Daily Slice: Evolution of the Amore oi Mari at Pizzicletta in Flagstaff, AZ

@L.A. Pizza Maven - Glad you will be making it in.... what day should I expect you?

Paulie Gee to Open a Baltimore Location with 'Pizzablogger'

Congrats to you two and congrats to the city of Baltimore... I'd have invested in this, for sure. -Caleb

Daily Slice: Evolution of the Amore oi Mari at Pizzicletta in Flagstaff, AZ

@Lance - Didn't you know, in a previous life I was an Italian nonna and was the first to make cacio e pepe. Ha!

In all honesty, pizza combinations are sometimes unique and very often inspired by other pizzaioli. I think the first night I made the "bee sting" went like this: sh#$, it's 4 o'clock and I need to decide on a special. In my kitchen I have serranos, I am low on mozzarella so I should use ricotta, and I was given 2# of honey instead of the 1/2# I requested so I'd better put it to use. When the pie was put together and served I had a customer ask, "how did you think of this combo?" and I mentioned eating the bee sting at Roberta's. "That's a great name." I couldn't argue.

Daily Slice: Evolution of the Amore oi Mari at Pizzicletta in Flagstaff, AZ

@harmsyseatown and @animals... Thank you for coming in!

@Tonycalzone I have complete respect for Roberta's and the sweet + heat combo was inspired by their pizza I had in 2010 while slices-deep in research. I most often mention to customers that my pie at Roberta's were behind that flavor combination at Pizzicletta. The name is very fitting for the local serranos and flagstaff honey we use.

A Pizza My Mind: Does It Really Matter Who Makes Your Pizza?

@Tscarborough - I agree to a point. I don't think the owner should ever sacrifice on the quality of the pizza (no matter whom the pizzaiolo of the night is), but the perception of the customer is not in our control and as Lance admits, perception can affect "taste."

A Pizza My Mind: Does It Really Matter Who Makes Your Pizza?

@Pizzablogger - You're absolutely right. Finding the right staff is not easy, but they do need to have the qualities that @KevinGardo mentioned, IMO. If someone doesn't care about the product and is just looking for a paycheck, the food will suffer. I think anyone in the industry knows that those are the employees to let go before handing over the peel. I feel fortunate that Pizzicletta has become a fun, passion-filled place to work and that has attracted/retained an amazing staff. I'd be nowhere without them.

@dmcavanaugh - I'll have to disagree with respect to Neapolitan pizza. Great dough with an over-floured, poorly shaped pie and poorly managed oven will not be good. I really don't think it's possible to identify a single person/task as the most important with respect to this style of pie.

Daily Slice: Bianco DiNapoli Margherita from Mozza2Go, Los Angeles, CA

A smarter man than you? Doubtful. But yes, I know the markup for bianco tomatoes. I raised my price $1 on my margherita and marinara. That's all I could justify and still sleep at night.

Is the Chipotle Model Transforming Chain Pizza?

This has been a pretty interesting discussion. If history provides any lesson, I believe it was the invention of the assembly line that essentially did away with most "artisanal" products. The word is now over-used in an attempt to market a product that is a step up from what's come before.

Clearly, there will be a distinction to customers between the assembly line approach vs. a mom and pop pizza operation.

Nonetheless, I'm sure these businesses will make a lot of "dough." I seriously doubt doubt they'll ever consistently make great pizza though.

Poll: Prosciutto on Pizza, Way or No Way?

Thinly sliced, post bake. Otherwise, no dice.

Building a Pizzeria: Pizzicletta, One Year Young

@gaffer - I'm working on cooling solutions. Should be installed soon.

@cptexas - please be sure to introduce yourself when you make it in.

@texas_ashley - Thanks for reading along and I'm glad to hear that my introspective posts are taken to heart. Hopefully, one day you'll be "dangerously close" to flagstaff and I can make you a pie.

@DSheridan - I'm blushing! I'm glad to hear the series has been well received.

@LearP - ill look into altering my directions on Yelp. Thanks for coming in and the feedback?

@FledipusRex - Be sure to introduce yourself. See you on Saturday!

Building a Pizzeria: Pizzicletta, One Year Young

@Humberto - Thanks for following along on FB. Last night was wild indeed with free pie... had a line down the street all night.

@Rodzilla - Frozen pie? You'll have to wait til I team up with Tombstone to create a Neapolitan-freezer pie.

@Adam - Yes, that's Sue! I should have handed my peel over to her.

Yelp brings in ~50% of NEW customers, which is probably only 10% within in a night and those are just estimates. Nonetheless, it is powerful and, yeah, I watch our reviews!

Building a Pizzeria: Pizzicletta, One Year Young

Thanks for the comments fellas.
@cornic1: Great question!!! Being on Slice has been great, but mostly from a pizza-geek-freak point of view, I believe. I cannot know the financial benefit/success to the postings, but it's certainly brought people in from across the country that would've never discovered us before. The biggest thing it has done, however, is given Pizzicletta some national attention that would otherwise being overlooked. We are in such a small town that most food blogs (e.g. Eater) will completely overlook us despite the fact that there is great things happening in our small food world. The potential, therefore, is still unknown I believe.
Many people might not want to hear this, but Yelp has had the biggest impact on business and I think I know why: we're rated #1 in town, our price point is very approachable, and who doesn't like pizza? So, you're on I-40, hungry, pull out your iPhone, and Yelp Flagstaff and Pizzicletta becomes a no-brainer. I ask nearly all our new customers how they heard of us and about 50% are via Yelp and even more on the weekends. It's a fascinating topic and, in my opinion, too influential at times.
At the same time, I ask if we live up to expectations they had after reading our reviews and most everyone says "absolutely."

Video: Caleb Schiff Interview

Thanks Kelly. It was a fun interview and Austen did a great job editing (although I wish he'd gotten some pizza shots!). He captured some of my favorite things about my space. What I also really enjoyed was taking the time to tell my story during a 30 minute interview. As I mentioned, I talk with about 90% of my customers, and they all want to know the roots of this place, but I only have a minute or two, at most. Sitting down and sharing it completely was a unique opportunity.

Hope to see you in Flagstaff soon. As I mentioned, it's a great place.

-Caleb

'The best pizza is the one that you like, not the one I tell you to like'

Lombardi Pizza Co.: Truckin' Great Pizza in Edison, New Jersey

@John - You know your dough. You nailed everything I focus on at Pizzicletta and the result is seriously-supple dough. This post confirms my suspicion that I find common themes from the Nomad-pedigree (e.g. PG and Peter) that are similar to my style of pie.

Lombardi Pizza Co.: Truckin' Great Pizza in Edison, New Jersey

@Adam - That does sound low. Calculating it out to the tenth of a percent is a bit telling that I think he goes by "feel," as I do, and this calculation was something he doesn't do often. I'd bet it is not fully accurate of his day to day batches, but I could be wrong. I've definitely found that the flour temperature & dryness, ambient air temperature & humidity all demand that I adjust the amount of flour I add to my water as I'm mixing.

Regardless, I think Peter and I strive for the same thing in our pizza - supple, chewy, crazy char & mid to high open crumb structure.

-Caleb

Lombardi Pizza Co.: Truckin' Great Pizza in Edison, New Jersey

That's legit! The dough is super silky and the char is off the hook... must be running a hot oven and high hydration. Never seen that come out of a truck. Well done.

Pizza-Only? Or Pasta, Too?

If you've ever walked a side street in Italy you've probably stumbled upon a floral shop, a basket shop, a cheese shop, a charcuterie shop, etc., all in one block. Essentially, one business doing one thing and I bet you'll never have found a better product than at those little shops.

I set out with one thing in mind. To make great pizza. The more time I spend on other prep, the less time I can focus on dough, which is the heart of my business. Focus.

And tonight, I had a customer come in requesting GF dough. I don't have it. Never will. They walked out. I'm understanding of celiac, but if you want GF dough or pasta, my restaurant is not for you. If you want the best pizza around, made with passion and attention to detail than I highly recommend paying me a visit. I promise that I won't let you down.

Hats off to Mario and best of luck to Jutes as he decides what track to take.

Building a Pizzeria: A Pizzicletta Update

Thanks for all the warm comments and feedback. I'll be sure to carve out some time this summer to continue with updates.

@JacobEstes - Pizzicletta = pizza + bicicletta. I discovered Neapolitan pizza while cycling though Italy. I know what you're on to but it clearly isn't my intention.

@PG - I think we (restaurant proprietors) could all write an extensive post about Yelp reviews. Anything will come! I'll tell Chris if he's in the neighborhood to swing by your place.

Building a Pizzeria: A Pizzicletta Update

Alan- Thank you for so eloquently saying what I feel deep in my bones about this place. It's built from love and I'm glad it shows.
You are also right about me not aiming to "ride a wave." Neapolitan pizza sure has gone mainstream over the last few years but my dream for this place began long before that. Thank you for noting this much.
And yes, I'm young but as Paulie has shown so well, passion has no age limit.

PG- You were a help to me, as I am sure you have been to many others (not necessarily in the pizza business either). The space is also something altogether special. I hardly knew what I had until I was allowed to do demo after signing my lease. It was a pleasant surprise. I hope to make you a pie some day.

San Francisco's Mobile Pizza Truck Population Doubles

Hot!!! I have a small restaurant, but at least the oven can vent to the rest of the space, out the windows, etc. My marble-slab workspace is about 6 feet from the oven front, but its still hot in the summer. I assume Dan knows what he's doing and has considered all these issues, it just seemed a difficult to design to overcome.

My other concern is the weight of the oven and the bricks. Ferrara's are brick ovens, not modular. So, there are many joints/mortar lines. Perhaps this gives the oven more flexure on bumpy roads, but it also seems like a fragile thing too. Can't imagine anything worse than hitting a bump at too high a speed and starting a crack that'll spread. The weight of the thing also seems like a big overhead from gasoline.

But don't get me wrong, I'd love to see this thing rolling! I'm sure they have engineers checking it all out.

I've always thought that AirItalia should put an oven on one of their jets. Maybe this is a first step.

San Francisco's Mobile Pizza Truck Population Doubles

Double whoa!

An enclosed space with a 900 F oven? Its going to be sooo freaking hot for the pizzaioli in the truck.

Video: Caleb Schiff Interview

Caleb Schiff documented his transition from pizza enthusiast to owner and operator of Pizzicletta in the Slice series Building a Pizzeria. In the series, we got to follow along as Caleb transformed his dream into a reality, and in doing so, demonstrated the passion, dedication, and work that goes into such an endeavor. It's always great to get updates from Caleb, and this week we have a very well done short film by a local college student, with Caleb as its focus. More

Building a Pizzeria: A Pizzicletta Update

We all followed along as Caleb Schiff built and opened his Flagstaff pizzeria, Pizzicletta. It's been a little more than eight months of wielding the peel and Caleb brings an update on what he's learned about the business, details on his pizzas and menu, wood, dough, and more. More

Building a Pizzeria: First, a Dream and a Lease

On Sunday night, the new NBC reality show "America's Next Great Restaurant" was launched. Coincidentally, this week Slice will be launching a mini-series that tracks my own work towards turning my dream of opening a wood-fired pizzeria into a reality. Thankfully I won't have a quartet of investors from the NBC show breathing down my throat, but with this mini-series, I hope I will receive the sage advice of Slice readers. More

Greenpoint, Brooklyn: Paulie Gee's

Photographs by Nick Solares Paulie Gee's 60 Greenpoint Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11222; 347-987-3747; pauliegee.com Pizza Style: Neapolitan-style pizza Oven Type: Wood-fired oven The Skinny: As much as a labor of love as any pizzeria out there, Paulie Gee's creates a warm, inviting mood and serves wonderful pies patterned on the Neapolitan model but with a local slant Price: Individual pies, $11 to $17 Notes: Liquor license coming next week If Paulie Gee ever runs out of fuel for his oven, he could probably scuttle his restaurant's interior, which is decked out floor to ceiling in wood, and keep making pizzas... More