Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more pizza places, they keep opening their doors. Every corner seems to require one.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. When the Nielsen Global Out-of-Home Dining Survey polled more than 30,000 respondents to better understand dining-out preferences, North Americans’ top reason for choosing a restaurant was reasonably priced food (47 percent).
Stir in U.S. consumers’ addiction to convenience, and pizza becomes a given.
Taste the love at Fredy Pizza
“There’s always room for more pizza places,” said Alfredo “Fredy” Rodriguez, grinning broadly.
He just opened Fredy Pizza in the former Uncle Nick’s Pizza location, opposite Gardner Drive in Port Charlotte.
His kids Shawn, Jason and Travis Lacno, and granddaughter Serena Powell, even his ex-wife, Sandra, were all there to help out.
“I love what I’m doing, because I want to make people happy,” he said. “Everybody makes pizza with the same sauce, the same dough, but God gave me good hands to make pizza. When I make it, it tastes different because of the love.”
It was a day of celebration for a man who’s been making pizza ever since he came to the United States from Cuba 26 years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.
He opened his first pizza place — Big Brothers Café & Pizzeria — 14 years ago in a little Sarasota strip mall. He also worked for over 15 years at the award-winning Cosimo’s, whose reputation for pizza had a lot to do with Fredy.
He has pizzas you won’t find anywhere else, including one with a uniquely Chinese accent — the Sesame Chix, with chicken, broccoli, sesame seeds and hoisin sauce — and a Quattro Formaggi with Fredy’s own blend of Gorgonzola, creamy Fontina, Parmesan and mozzarella.
Fredy Pizza ($), 941-875-9582 or 9583, 3880 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, is open Monday to Thursday noon to 9 p.m., Friday to 10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 3 to 8 p.m.
Father & Son carries on
It was a painfully long two months for a small business hanging on in what used to be a bank-owned property.
The seven-year-old Father & Son Pizzeria, on Duncan Road heading out of Punta Gorda, finally reopened after its strip mall underwent heavy renovation.
“For a year no other businesses have been here. Just us,” said co-owner Victoria Malato. “They shut off the water and electric to all the other units, and you can’t do that in Florida. So they had to replace the main support beam for the building, a caving-in roof, the walls.”
Malato and fiancé Sal Sciacca recently bought Father & Son from Sal’s retired father, Sal Sr.
Closed or not, the isolated pizzeria has remained a favorite destination for determined regulars from as far as Fort Lauderdale and Arcadia. Its New York/New Jersey-style pizza, calzones, Stromboli, Italian dinners and giant stuffed green peppers are beloved, capisce^p?
And Father & Son won’t remain alone in its mall much longer. Local independent Sandman Book Company, always fond of next-door pizza, plans to move over from Burnt Store Road — cat mascot, stock and book-built arches — in early 2019.
Father & Son Pizzeria ($-$$), 941-347-7117, 5240 Duncan Road, is open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday to 10 p.m., Saturday noon to 10 p.m.
‘No pizza for you!’
What pizza guy in his right mind channels the “Seinfeld” Soup Nazi and says, “No pizza for you!”?
Maybe Phil Solarzano of Solarzano’s Pizzeria Venice isn’t in his right mind, but his is a smart kind of crazy.
A Facebook video of an outraged Venice Solarzano’s customer was quickly tagged with a spin on the infamous “Seinfeld” phrase. It went viral, with more than 180,000 views; drew fans and critics alike; attracted the attention of actor Larry Thomas, who played the mustachioed soup vendor; and won Solarzano a lot more business than the single order that he’d refused.
There’s no question. Solarzano’s has Jersey attitude.
Its cocky slogan — “Nobody Makes Pizza Like We Do” — originated at Phil’s father, Carlos’, pizzeria in 1970s Hoboken.
“Hey, we’re confident, we’ve got a great product and we stand by it,” said Phil. “If you’re offended by that, go somewhere else.”
Phil runs two other Solarzano’s — Solarzano’s Pizzeria Siesta Key and Gulf Gate Late Night Pizzeria. His brother, Carlos Jr., operates Solarzano Bros. Old-Fashioned Pizza in Sarasota.
Phil’s next move will be a North Port Solarzano’s in a top-secret location.
When asked about his haste to open a new store, Phil said, “I’m not playin’ no games. The boom that we have in Venice is out of control, and we’re gonna keep it going.”
“We keep things like in a real pizzeria, not a restaurant,” he explained.
Customers place orders at the counter and pay, and runners bring food to their table, without servers.
“It’s quick and easy that way, and people are happy. In a full restaurant there are too many things that can go wrong between kitchen and customer.”
Unlike Venice’s large space, Phil said, “in North Port, I’ll be sticking to pizzeria, pizza by the slice, dine-in, takeout. And delivery is our main hustle.”
North Port will duplicate the Venice menu and serve beer and wine. If it stays true to Solarzano’s formula, it will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, with late delivery.
For news about North Port and a possible guest appearance by Larry “Soup Nazi” Thomas, visit Solarzano’s Pizzeria Venice at 212 S. Tamiami Trail (Gianni’s old location) or follow it on Facebook @RealJerseyPizza.
Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at email@example.com.
Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage.