Peter Porcelli, owner of The Pizza Place in Hewlett, has a take-charge personality and business savvy that makes his restaurant run like a well-oiled machine.
“I oversee the chefs and make sure we only put out top quality food,” he said. “I run a very clean store. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and this place is doing pretty well.”
Porcelli, of Franklin Square, took over two vacant stores when he opened up The Pizza Place in 1999 at 1344 Broadway. He has a few business partners who own several other local pizza restaurants, including Marinara, also in Hewlett.
Part of the restaurant’s success certainly seems to be his no-nonsense way of running the business and managing his staff. Porcelli is firm, but fair, according to employees.
Anna Maria Concilio, who has worked at the restaurant for 13 years, said that Porcelli is on top of things.
“I’ve known him for 25 years, and he really knows what he’s doing,” she said. “He’s a really strong kind of guy, which you need to be in a business like this.”
The Pizza Place stands out primarily because the food isn’t the middling fare that is common in some other local pizza places, according to customers. It offers restaurant-quality food, in line with some of the best traditional Italian eateries in the area.
Beth Star, whose father owns Eyes on Broadway in the same strip mall as The Pizza Place, is a repeat customers.
“I really love the food,” Star said. “The quality is very consistent. I like the ingredients so much that I buy his dough and sauce and use it to make our own pizza at home.”
Great pizza and more
Porcelli's dedication to his product also helps bring in a steady stream of customers, many of whom come from nearby Hewlett High School and local offices.
“We make our pizza pies a few at a time, so everything is fresh,” he said. “If something is sitting there, even for a little while, I throw it out.”
Even though the entrées are a big hit, Porcelli said his place is known for its specialty pizza, like the buffalo chicken and grandma pies.
“Today I made a calamari marinara pizza, and I make an asparagus pizza now and then," he said. "But our dinners are great too. We do very well with the chicken Parmesan. It’s a very good dish.”
Despite the popularity of his special pizzas and unique nightly dinner specials, Porcelli said he still likes to go back to basics.
“I really love the regular, plain pizza the best,” he said. “I even like my pasta pretty plain, with just a little sauce.”
Experience is key
Porcelli's parents are from Italty, and he said he's suited for the food business because he grew up with home cooking.
"Even though [my parents] weren’t in the restaurant business, I learned to cook from my mother," he said. "I would watch her, and I kept on playing around with it, until I got it right.”
Porcelli is in fact an old pro at pizza, having previously owned eateries in Queens, East Meadow and Uniondale. Over the years, he closed those stores and set his sights on what he considers his best location yet — Hewlett.
“I like it here, because this is a great neighborhood. They like to eat good food, and they like to be spoiled a little bit,” he said. “I give the customers really good food — without that, you’ve got nothing.”