Pizza con gentleman of Lombardi’s fame opens NYC slice joint

Merna Delaurentis

He was a person of NYC’s most celebrated pizzaiolos prior to the feds place him behind bars again in 1996. Currently, infamous pie person Andrew Bellucci is back tossing dough in NYC — and swears he’s ultimately absent legit.  “I’ve run away so quite a few times,” Bellucci, 57, a […]

He was a person of NYC’s most celebrated pizzaiolos prior to the feds place him behind bars again in 1996.

Currently, infamous pie person Andrew Bellucci is back tossing dough in NYC — and swears he’s ultimately absent legit. 

“I’ve run away so quite a few times,” Bellucci, 57, a pizza chef who exploded on to the culinary scene in the mid-1990s, advised The Post. “I have to give New York a single extra shot.”

He’s speaking of his new slice joint, Bellucci Pizza, in Astoria. Its opening follows a decadeslong odyssey that took Bellucci from the venerable Lombardi’s in Soho to the Otisville Correctional Facility in upstate New York, to much-flung stints in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Hawaii, Shanghai, Bangkok and Ann Arbor, Mich.

His prolonged road to 30th Avenue is chronicled in aspect in a seven-component collection identified as “Untitled Pizza Motion picture,” produced by filmmaker David Shapiro (“Keep the River on Your Correct: A Contemporary Cannibal Tale,” “Missing People”) and set to premiere this Friday, Feb. 26, through Metrograph theater.

“Business has been truly great,” reported Bellucci from the basement of his 300-sq.-foot store. Due to the fact the comfortable opening two months in the past, he’s been serving up slices for $3.50, additionally 12- and 18-inch pies ($12 to $30) of his basic New York-fashion pizza, as nicely as more decadent specialty pies.

The “Sonny Supreme” features two sorts of pepperoni and local Italian sausage with fennel customized-produced by Dave & Tony Salumeria in Long Island Metropolis.

It’s named right after his former cellmate in Otisville, in which Bellucci wound up following he embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from a law business he at the time worked at in the ’80s.

John “Sonny” Franzese was an underboss of the Colombo crime family and a former Lombardi’s patron.

“They put me in with the Italian fellas,” stated Bellucci.

During his sentence, Bellucci was transferred to another facility in Allenwood, Pa., which was much more like a scene from “Goodfellas” than it was challenging time. “There ended up tennis courts,” claimed Bellucci. “And the fellas were being lamenting that the golfing course was closed.”

The true punishment, he reported, was staying written off by the house owners of Lombardi’s, and “that I introduced shame upon my mom and dad.”

“It was a horrible detail to do,” claimed Bellucci. “I imagine about it and it tends to make me sick to my abdomen.”

A scene in the kitchen at Lombardi's Pizzeria, Little Italy.
A scene in the kitchen area at Lombardi’s Pizzeria, Very little Italy.

In 1994, Bellucci wowed higher-brow critics and amateur slice aficionados alike when he aided re-open Lombardi’s pizzeria on Spring Avenue. He was praised for his pies flawlessly blistered from a coal-burning oven, sought following since it burns hotter than wooden, generating what some say is a top-quality crust.

The following year, federal brokers dropped by Lombardi’s for lunch, ordered a pie, then arrested Bellucci.

“They did not pay out for it either,” Bellucci claimed of the feds’ get. “They owe me 20 bucks as well as desire.”

Bellucci eventually pled responsible to 54 counts of fraud and the Jersey Metropolis indigenous was handed a 13-thirty day period sentence.

The restaurant community was in shock and the New York Occasions — which experienced beforehand lauded Bellucci’s pizza abilities — revealed a story accusing him of fabricating sections of his track record. He experienced not been born in the Bronx, as he experienced beforehand claimed, and he had exaggerated his position at Lombardi’s, the paper noted.

Ironically, it was Bellucci’s achievements that experienced led to his capture. Partners at Newman Schlau Fitch & Lane experienced acknowledged him from all the media awareness he had obtained when encouraging open Lombardi’s.

Though operating as the office manager of the law organization in the late ’80s, he experienced solid partners’ signatures and fraudulently billed clientele for further hours.

He invested lavishly — the moment throwing a bash on Christopher Street with a stay band and even inviting his legislation-company colleagues.

Director David Shapiro with lifelong friend Leeds Atkinson who helped him interview Belluci back in the day when Bellucci was at Lombardi’s Pizzeria.
Director David Shapiro with lifelong good friend Leeds Atkinson who helped him interview Belluci back in the day when Bellucci was at Lombardi’s Pizzeria.

Soon after he remaining the law company in 1990, Bellucci jetted off to France for what he referred to as a “reset,” pondering he received absent with the heist. But his former companies had been suspicious and had notified the feds.

In Europe, he worked at a few Michelin-starred joints — “I usually required to prepare dinner professionally,” he said — and, upon his return to The united states, landed a location as a sous-chef in the kitchen area at Spring Avenue Restaurant.

“The proprietors needed a late-night time menu, like pizza, and the chef did not want anything at all to do with that,” explained Bellucci. “So I observed a mixer and commenced producing pies.”

Immediately after that gig, he became the daytime pie guy at Two Boots, adopted by a stint at the A few of Cups. When he signed on to make pies at the revamped Lombardi’s on Spring Street, he was hitting his pizza stride.

Filmmaker Shapiro very first fulfilled Bellucci in the ’90s at Lombardi’s, and the two stay buddies. “I still don’t forget how good that pie was,” said Shapiro, whose future challenge seems at Oprah’s Reserve Club. “This slice is superior.” 

Immediately after his release in 1997, Bellucci claims he placed himself in a self-imposed “pizza exile.” He used 16 decades driving cabs in NYC in advance of seeking Craigslist for a gig as a pizza chef on a whim. “I was at the best, and then I was not,” he suggests in the film. “It was traumatic.”

In 2013, Bellucci teamed up with restaurateur Michael Helfman, who introduced him to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in which he aided open 3 restaurants. In the movie, he describes an “extremely challenging” period, and even recounts making an attempt suicide utilizing Jack Daniel’s and Vicodin.

The good thing is, rock bottom begot rebirth. Bellucci vowed then to get again to principles and re-focused himself to formulating the fantastic slice.

Andrew Bellucci at Lombardi's Pizza in Nolita, NYC.
Andrew Bellucci at Lombardi’s Pizza in Nolita, NYC.

He had a cost-free-standing pizza oven designed in his backyard in Kuala Lumpur, and started experimenting with the 4 pizza things: dough, cheese, sauce and warmth. He tinkered with wooden, lump charcoal and coal as fuel sources. 

He arrived again to New York and experimented with opening pop-up pizza places to eat, then headed back to Asia at the behest of the proprietor of Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Road.

“They have been searching to do an enlargement into China,” he stated, but the plans fell apart on account of soaring tariffs. “Cheese turned 80 percent of their functioning prices.”

In 2018, Bellucci was presented a new career as the govt chef at Rubirosa on Mulberry Street. The bodily demanding gig only lasted a several months. “I could not stand all day or go up and down the stairs,” he said. 

A transient sojourn tossing pies in Bangkok, then Hawaii, where he suggests he missing 40 lbs by swearing off liquor, got Bellucci into what he identified as “pizza shape.” He went back again to work for the entrepreneurs of Joe’s, who were organizing to open up in Ann Arbor, Mich., in slide 2019.

“I explained to myself that I would possibly do this or die seeking,” mentioned Bellucci of his previous stand. 

A major game at the University of Michigan proved to be Bellucci’s individual playoff. “The working day of the Michigan as opposed to Michigan State recreation, I built around 500 pies. There was a 100-pie get for 7:30 a.m.,” he reported. “I knew soon after that match, soon after not taking a crack, and being on my toes for 12 hrs, that I was again in the sport.”  

Bellucci was back in New York for spring crack when COVID hit, shutting down Michigan’s in-man or woman understanding and Bellucci’s stream of hungry coeds. He toyed with heading to Tokyo for another foray into international pie-earning, when “Untitled Pizza Movie” premiered at Sundance, inspiring the longtime dough-maker to give the New York pizza scene yet another try out.

On Craigslist, he found a new companion, Leo Dakmak, to again him monetarily. “He received my vision and said he would adhere to me blindly,” reported Bellucci. “I told him that was probably the stupidest issue he would at any time do.”

Dakmak handles the enterprise aspect — “I’m the world’s worst businessman,” reported Bellucci. “Leo does the accounting, the taxes, payroll” — so that Bellucci can do what he does best: make pizza.

His pies are cooked at 630 degrees in a $35,000 electrical oven. His crust, he said, is “heavily influenced” by the baguette — “I needed the chew, and crispness,” he mentioned. Every slice is topped with 18-month aged pecorino Romano and freshly grated solitary-origin aranya black pepper, which Bellucci purchased by the pound 4 months prior to his shop even opened to make it in time for the spice’s harvest in Kerala, India. 

A few more Bellucci pizza edicts: He won’t serve pizza using dough which is been proofed for much less than 48 several hours. He’s been known to shut off the lights and near shop if a pie is coming out as well dry, or undercooked.

Andrew Bellucci of Belluci's Pizza in Astoria, Queens, monitoring the pizza selections at the front counter.
Andrew Bellucci of Belluci’s Pizza in Astoria, Queens, monitoring the pizza options at the entrance counter.
Stephen Yang

“He’s fired so quite a few people, in some cases I’m afraid he’ll hearth me,” joked Dakmak, who also owns a piercing keep and a tattoo store in Manhattan and additional that enterprise is “better than envisioned.”

But the perfectionist isn’t a stickler for sanctimonious New York food items guidelines. He’s professional condiments and is bringing New Yorkers homemade “herb-forward” ranch dressing, an ode to the Midwesterners he served in Michigan, as well as serrano honey and fermented incredibly hot sauce, which he tends to make himself.

“There’s usually home for advancement,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with the rooster in the hen-bacon-ranch slice.”  

Meanwhile, the pizza veteran is already rustling up rivalries with his former companies. “Maybe I’ll open up throughout the avenue,” he claimed of Lombardi’s on Spring Road. As for Joe’s, “I’m the opposite,” he stated. “Joe’s desires to provide pizza to absolutely everyone.”

Alternatively, Bellucci sees himself in the similar league as four-star places to eat such as For every Se and Eleven Madison Park.

“I have only a single intention,” he stated. “And it is to grow to be the first slice shop with a Michelin star.” 

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