The Solorzano Brothers, Philip and Carlos Jr., are the infamous owners of multiple local pizzerias on Florida’s West Coast.
The brothers recently brought their Jersey-style pies to North Port. Between their “Pay it Forward Wall” to give to the homeless community and their support for those in need to their offer of a “free slice for life” if you get their logo tattooed on your body, this family is making its mark on the community.
Philip Solorzano gave us an inside look on what the pizzeria business means to him.
How did you get your start in the food industry and where did Solorzano’s get its start?
My parents started when they came from Italy in the ’60s. They started in New Jersey. My grandfather had a pizzeria called Filippo’s Pizzeria — that’s also my name and my son’s name. My dad opened up his own pizzeria after working for my grandfather and got married to my mom. I eventually came back down to Florida back in 2003, fell in love with the place, and then convinced my family to sell their pizzeria to come down here. They did, and we opened a nice little pizzeria restaurant together for a couple years. I then wanted to get back into the pizzeria game, so I asked my brother to come along. We opened up another one, and wound up splitting then to make it easier for us, much more love with the family. My brother owns the location at Beneva (Road) and Webber (Street, in Sarasota), and I have the other five pizzerias.
Where did the cooking lessons come from? Who inspired you to cook?
There’s a picture of me in my grandma’s pizzeria in the kitchen. I’m in my Pampers and there’s spaghetti on her hand while she’s holding me. I’ve been in the business my whole life, but have watched my parents and my grandparents cook. I never went to school, but I could school anybody.
What inspires your menu?
Our pizza is pretty Jersey and New York style, pretty simple, but some of the names like the Hoboken Heart Attack, that my father used to say back in the day when our pizzerias were in Hoboken, and he used to call that the meat lover’s pizza. I took that name from him using it. The Centrella pizza, that comes from my grandfather’s last name, and the name Solorzanos is actually my father’s last name. The Luca Brasi pizza, a deep-dish pizza, comes from “The Godfather.” I came up with the Siesta Fiesta, a pineapple-and-ham pizza with bacon and pepperoni, and comes from my first pizzeria on Siesta Key.
What makes your pizza stand out from the rest? Who is your biggest competitor?
We make our own bread, our own garlic knots, and no one makes Italian bread like we do. Restaurants try to buy our bread from us all the time, that’s how good it is. Our food stands out from everybody else’s, and nobody makes pizza like we do. Our pizza is phenomenal, we’ve been doing it since the ’60s. Everybody everywhere always undercuts and takes shortcuts to everything, gets deals on whatever sauce, but we use the same sauce we’ve been using since forever. The cheese we use is the best you can buy, and we have a couple secret ingredients and a couple secret things that we do that no one else knows. We do this for a living. My whole family have had over 25 pizzerias, this is all we do. This is a way of life for us, this is our culture.
What is the inspiration behind the free slice for life club with the logo tattoo?
I came up with this idea and it’s been running wild, we are up to 78 tattoos. People fly down just to get the tattoo. I just came up with it one day, put it out there, and people started doing it. I got together with a tattoo shop who made me a deal, and it’s $75 for each, but I don’t even let the customer pay for it — I do. So, they get a free slice for life at any of my five locations. I was out one day pumping gas when a lady came up to me saying “I know you,” and as she turned around, she had a tattoo of my face on her neck. I just love it.
Besides pizzas and calzones, Solorzanos serves salads, subs, garlic knots, wings, pasta dishes, eggplant, chicken and shrimp Parmesan and more for take-out and dine-in customers.