Jan. 20, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Andrew Bellucci, a renowned and controversial pizza maker, is opening a new restaurant in Astoria.
Bellucci will open a new pizzeria next month at 37-08 30th Ave., which will be called Bellucci’s Pizzeria. He hopes that the new restaurant will cement his reputation in the pizza business.
The Jersey City native, who rose to prominence in the 1990s as the face of Lombardi’s Pizzeria in Manhattan, is taking over a space previously occupied by sLICe Pizza. The opening was first reported by Eater.
The new restaurant will have no ties to Bellucci Pizza, located at 29-04 30th Ave., which Bellucci opened early last year with his former business partner Leo Dakmak. The pair had a spat in October and Bellucci left the business although the operation still uses his name.
Bellucci, who turns 58 on Friday, said he wants to quickly move on from the experience and the new pizzeria will be his only restaurant currently in operation.
“I don’t have time to waste, I have a certain vision and I want to build my legacy,” Bellucci said. “I’m really excited and looking forward to opening.”
The new pizzeria will offer whole pies, including Sicilian and grandmas. There will also be an array of vegan and gluten-free options as well as deep-fried calzones.
There will be six different pizza slices served on a rotational basis with the classic plain slice being offered for $2.75, Bellucci said.
“The slices are very important because it allows approachability,” Bellucci said. “Not everyone has the time or the money for a full pie but if you are coming down the street and want a quick slice we are going to be set up for that.”
The new pizzeria will also offer sweet and savory zeppoles as well as sandwiches and salads. Traditional clam pies will be on the menu too but only for dine-in customers since the pies degrade once placed inside boxes, Bellucci said.
“I want to make the best pizzas and to give Astoria the best of me,” Bellucci said.
Bellucci reopened Lombardi’s to much acclaim in 1994 after it had been shut for a decade. The following year he was convicted of fraud and handed a 13-month prison sentence.
He ditched the idea of flinging pizzas full-time in 2000 and drove cabs before returning to the industry in 2013. He helped open three restaurants in Malaysia and also worked in Bangkok, Hawaii and Manhattan before partnering with Dakmak in Astoria last year.
Bellucci said he is eager to get back into the pizza game and is committed to staying in Astoria, a neighborhood he says he has a deep affinity for.
“I moved to Long Island City in 1983 and in those days we had to go to Astoria to get good food and I just fell in love with the neighborhood,” he said, noting that he is currently living in Astoria.
“My priority was to stay [in business] in Astoria because I made a real connection with people here and I just love the customer base.”
Bellucci said the new premises is ideal for his needs since it is a 12-minute walk from his home and came with some pizza-making equipment including a gas-powered oven to cook the pies.
The indoor area is 1,000 square feet and seats 25 people. He has painted the interior walls and put up red-colored tiles to give the place a new feel.
There is a garden area to the rear which can seat around 50 people. It will open in the spring since it is not furnished to facilitate customers during the cold weather, he said.
Bellucci said he was also drawn to the premises since the basement is large with proper refrigeration space to help the dough fermentation process. All the pies will be made fresh, he said.
Initial opening hours will be Wednesdays through Sundays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. with the pizzeria expected to open for lunch on Fridays through Sundays once operations are running smoothly, Bellucci said.
Bellucci said the pizzeria’s opening hours will be limited since he will be taking a hands-on approach to production which requires him to be at the shop during business hours.
“For me, it’s always quality over quantity,” he said. “I want to be very proud with what I serve and with what I do.”