Veneto to open west-side location

Veneto Wood Fired Pizza & Pasta, an East Avenue staple since 2001, will open a second location on Thursday.

Veneto Westside will open at 1308 Buffalo Road in Gates, and restaurant owner Don Swartz said the location will serve the same wood fired pizza, available in seven varieties, and its homemade pasta dishes that are currently available at the original location.

The restaurant will also continue to provide a “Dinner for Two” deal, offering a large salad to share, two entrees, dessert to share and a bottle of wine for $55. Orders will be taken over the phone and available for takeout and curbside pickup until government restrictions are lifted.

“It’s not ideal to open during a pandemic but we’re excited to move forward,” Swartz said.

The second location was slated to open on April 1 but faced setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown. “We are eager to let the community know we’re here. Then, by the time the state allows us to open up fully, we’ll be ready. Everything will be smoothed out,” Swartz said.

Swartz began looking to expand to a second location more than a year ago. Once the Gates Town Plaza location, formerly an Italian restaurant, became available, Swartz said it was a good fit for the brand. Veneto Westside will have an open-air concept similar to the first location, with views of the kitchen and 600-degree wood-burning stone pizza oven.

Additional features have been incorporated into the design to guarantee the health and safety of Veneto’s staff and customers.

“It’s a different layout than our East Avenue location, but you still experience that open kitchen feeling,” Swartz said. “Once we’re able to welcome diners into the restaurant, they will get to see the pasta being made, the pizza dough being thrown in the air, a flame from vodka sauce. It’s almost like a show for our customers — they love seeing the food being prepared and like to engage with our chefs.”

Christopher Mayer, a head chef at the East Avenue location, will run the kitchen at Veneto Westside, bringing with him more than a dozen years of experience in Italian restaurants.

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Pizzeria owner spreads Bay & Goodman name to convenience stores

Scott Diem, owner of the Fairport Bay & Goodman Pizzeria, had been thinking about expanding sales into convenience stores.

But it took hearing that a larger competitor, Salvatore’s, was making a move in that direction, too, for Diem to take action.  Not only do pizza stores compete against each other, but they also face strong competition from convenience stores, particularly for pizza-by-the-slice sales.

Starting this week, customers can buy slices of Bay & Goodman pizza at one convenience store in Fairport and another in East Rochester.  He also has two more tentative agreements for the lease/purchase deals for pizza warmers to carry Bay & Goodman pizza.

Diem is looking for up to eight more stores in the vicinity of the Fairport pizzeria to sell Bay & Goodman pizza in their establishments, as well as 10 more in the vicinity of the Winton Road Bay & Goodman to sell pizza from the sister pizzeria.

“Larry Piccarretto owns the other store on Winton. He’s now going to be marketing these warmers, too,” Diem said. Piccarretto’s family was involved with the original store at Bay & Goodman, started at that intersection 60 years ago.

Leveraging the name of Bay & Goodman, which is well known among Rochester pizza eaters of a certain age, Diem branded a pizza warmer with a street sign showing the intersection in the city of Rochester where the pizza store got its start decades ago.

“I provide the warmer and I deliver the pizzas. Then all they’ve got to do is sell it,” Diem said.

Scott Diem added branding to a pizza warmer so convenience stores selling his pizza will know it's Bay & Goodman. Photo supplied by Scott Diem
Scott Diem added branding to a pizza warmer so convenience stores selling his pizza will know it’s Bay & Goodman. (Photo supplied by Scott Diem)

Ramadan Al-Saedy, the manager of Fairport Convenient, 154 N. Main St., said he had thought of offering pizza in the past, but decided against it because it would be too much trouble. But then Diem came in with an offer that seemed to make sense: Diem delivers two pizzas a day, five days a week. And the store makes just a six-month commitment, though it can be extended, or more pizzas can be delivered each day.

“It’s a really good idea. It’s worth it to give it a chance to see how it works,” Al-Saedy said.

Most slices have sold by the end of the day, Al-Saedy said, excepting on the very rainy Wednesday when foot traffic was discouraged.

Bob’s A-Plus on Washington Street in East Rochester has also started selling Bay & Goodman pizza.

Diem has been in the pizza business just since April 2017. Previously he owned an offset printing business, Dynamic Litho, until he sold it in the early 2000s. Then he worked for 15 years as a truck driver.

Diem said the reaction has been positive among the businesses he has approached with the idea of putting a pizza warmer in their stores so they can sell his pizza.

“I’m finding out it’s a real like. It’s kind of like I just planted my flag,” Diem said.

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Salvatore’s marks 40 years with both change and consistency

After 40 years in the business, 26 stores, 1600 employees and recovery from a nearly devastating stroke, Sam Fantauzzo may be taking it a little easier in the future.  But don’t sign him up for a rocker just yet.

Sam Fantauzzo
Sam Fantauzzo

The 58-year-old founder of Salvatore’s Pizzeria wants more time to enjoy life while still having a very active role in the business he famously started as a home economics project while still in high school.

Active is the key word here. Though surprisingly low-key in person, the man who shouts and sings “SALVATORES! DOT COM!” in his pizzeria commercials seems to never stand still business-wise. His says his wife enjoys spending time in Florida, but he’s not so crazy about the state. He passes part of the time they’re in the Sunshine State by scouting out the business landscape.

“His brain never stops. He’s constantly coming up with ideas and something new to try,” said Fantauzzo’s cousin Ray Lo Re, a Salvatore’s franchise owner.

In Florida, Fantauzzo came up with this: “There are dozens of yogurt shops in every city. They dabble in cafes.” But he didn’t see a plethora of independent pizzerias like back home in Rochester.

As a result, he developed a concept that can diversify a small business and bring Salvatore’s pizza to non-pizza stores, whether in Florida or New York or elsewhere. It’s a pizza alcove of sorts, in which he would add a small pizza oven and counter to a 12 feet-by-3-feet space to an existing store. Fantauzzo would set up the mini pizzeria and then supply it with ingredients, either under the Salvatore’s name or the store’s name.

“In 24 hours you can be in the pizza business.” Fantauzzo said.  “The goal is to set up a pizzeria in any bar, any yogurt shop.” Similar to his “Speedy Slice” concept  — a low-frills and lower-cost pizzeria —  the menu would be compact to make the concept less labor intensive.  And the state-of-the-art, high-temp oven would cook pizza in just a couple of minutes.

“It’s a brand new concept. It’s our future,” Fantauzzo said during an interview in his still-new corporate office on Empire Boulevard in Penfield. The office is new, he explains, because he never felt the need before when he was working more intensely in the pizzerias.  But now that he’s working more on business development and training, the time has arrived for a headquarters.

The former house includes a training center in the basement, where coaching on delivery methods and classes on safe food handling practices are held. Part of the ground floor and the second floor are devoted to offices. The east side of the ground floor is part conference room, part demo of the new alcove pizza shop concept. And the whole place is a showcase for Fantauzzo’s soccer memorabilia.

In July, the company that Fantauzzo started when he was 17 turned 40 years old. To celebrate the milestone, Fantauzzo had considered a huge bash – a 70s-era disco band headliner, renting the Blue Cross Arena. But then he ran into Gary Mervis, the founder of Camp Good Days and Happy Times at a Lancers game – the soccer team that “Soccer Sam” Fantauzzo owns.

“He does so many great things,” Fantauzzo said of Mervis. Suddenly the idea of a big party seemed a bit silly.

“I felt kind of weird giving myself a party….But giving to a non-profit made me feel good,” Fantauzzo said. So he decided to give $40,000 to Camp Good Days, and plans to raise $41,000 in the business’ 41st year for the Breast Care Coalition of Rochester.

“I’m a Rochester guy, so I want to keep it in Rochester, “ Fantauzzo said. He was talking about his charitable donations, but he could have easily been talking about some of Rochester’s eatery institutions. First there was Donuts Delite, which he and some partners bought several years ago and saved by adding his Salvatore’s menu to the original doughnut recipes. (It’s now run by Salvatore’s franchise owner Nick Semeraro)  Salvatore’s similarly brought back the Arthur Treacher’s brand, again pairing it with pizza, and the 1872 Café, a coffee shop in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood.

“He’s very passionate for this city. He’s very passionate for soccer and our Salvatore’s brand,” Lo Re said.

Lo Re attributes Salvatore’s success to Fantauzzo’s marketing and careful marshaling of franchises.  “He’s a marketing genius,” Lo Re said, coming up with catchy phrases and practices that patrons remember. One is the promise to make the “pepperoni kiss,” meaning applying the pepperoni slices so they all touch, ensuring that every slice has thorough pepperoni coverage.

Many of the 26 Salvatore’s stores are franchises owned by relatives or long-time workers or both. Lo Re was a child when he started working for his older cousin at the original store on East Main Street. “When he first opened up, I was a little kid. He used to come pick us up on a Saturday. We would help do some prep work,” Lo Re recalled. He became a franchise owner himself in 2001.

Lo Re said Fantauzzo takes pride in the appearance of all the franchises and their personnel. The workers wear black and red uniforms and not flour-covered aprons, while serving customers.  And Fantauzzo hires a company to come clean the windows at each location. In recent years, beer and wine service have been added to some of the restaurants, along with eat-in facilities.

“A lot of us owners take a lot of pride in the Salvatore’s name,” Lo Re said.

Not everything has been rosy as the chain has grown. Two recent projects in particular have been thorny ones for Fantauzzo. He bought a location in the building adjacent to Parcel 5 expecting he was getting in on the ground floor of a downtown renaissance.

“I thought it was a done deal,” he said of the proposed performing arts center slated for the site. While nothing has happened on Parcel 5, the “Coming soon” signs at the Salvatore’s location haven’t changed either in nearly a year.

First there was an issue with getting a single bathroom approved for such a small restaurant. Then, Fantauzzo said, a plumbing contractor accidentally set off a fire alarm early in the construction, causing the entire building to be evacuated. That violated his lease for the space which prohibited bothering the other tenants of the building with construction.  It’s been hard to find construction workers, Fantauzzo said, who are willing to take on the small job nights and weekends to avoid furthur disturbances, Fantauzzo said.

Attempting to revive another once-popular hangout, Fantauzzo bought the Dog House on West Ridge Road near the former Kodak Park, planning to turn it into a pub and hot dog restaurant. Major renovation issues have come up and there’s an approval process required for a patio he’d like to have at that location. “I grow frustrated and say ‘I’m not going to worry about it now,’ ” Fantauzzo said.  Still, he is planning to open both locations, just later than he first thought.

“Our industry is a challenge,” Fantauzzo said, starting with the long hours. “Everyone wants to eat pizza when everyone’s off work.”  It becomes harder and harder to find workers who want to make a life out of running a pizzeria, he said. His simplified store concept aims to create smaller locations that can be operated with fewer people and perhaps even within regular working hours, “almost like a normal job,” he said.

Now it’s rare to find a worker come in at the entry level and aspire to become a franchise owner, Fantauzzo said. A notable exception is a Bonsian refugee, Edina Kemetz, who started working at Salvatore’s when she was 15, planning to do that for a while until she worked in another field. Instead, she fell in love with the pizza business. And  on Sept. 18,  Salvatore’s will be holding ribbon cutting at the Spencerport store to celebrate Kemetz, and the first franchise entirely owned by a woman.

Fantauzzo has kept the chain limited to fewer than 30 locations for now to avoid reaching the state’s minimum for being required to pay higher wages and offer calorie counts on its menus.

“It’s very expensive for a small company to do that,” Fantauzzo said. And, he notes, two of his three main competitors – Wegmans and gas stations – don’t have to meet those requirements aimed at fast-food restaurants.  However, if he can make a go of the pizzeria-alcove in a store, he won’t be beating his competitors, he’ll be joining them.

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Papa John’s stores seek new franchise owner

Papa John’s International says it is looking for new franchise owners to take over the five restaurants in the Rochester area that were closed suddenly Easter Sunday.

“We’re grateful to all of our loyal customers in Rochester and are currently exploring possibilities around new ownership,” read a statement shared by a Papa John’s spokesperson distributed late Monday afternoon. Franchise owner Schuyler J. Lofberg had posted a notice on the stores in Rochester, East Rochester, Fairport, Henrietta and Greece blaming state business climate for the closing.

“It’s come to an abrupt ending due to the heavy headwinds put upon us by New York State. We will not be the last to fall under this current business climate,” the note read in part.

Early Tuesday morning Lofberg responded to an email request for details by saying he’d be happy to talk, but then failed to respond to a request to schedule that discussion.

The corporate spokesperson said closings were limited to the Rochester stores.

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Papa John’s stores close in Rochester area

breakfast-cheese-coca-cola-708587Local Papa John’s pizza restaurants have closed, blaming business conditions in New York.

A note about the closings, dated April 1, was posted on the door of at least one of five local Papa John’s stores, from Schuyler J. Lofberg, “sole member.” He is listed as the owner of the local franchises elsewhere.

“It’s come to an abrupt ending due to the heavy headwinds put upon us by New York State. We will not be the last to fall under this current business climate” the note read in part.

The note also invited inquiries to be sent to [email protected]. An email requesting comment did not elicit an immediate response.

Lofberg has in recent years taken a stand with other business owners against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attempts to increase wages for quick service and restaurant workers, among others.

A call to the Maiden Lane, Greece, Papa John’s store was answered by a recorded message saying the store was closed for Easter and will be open for regular hours “tomorrow.” Other Papa John’s stores are located on East Main Street in Rochester, Mount Hope Avenue in Brighton, Fairport Road in East Rochester,  and East Henrietta Road in Henrietta.

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