New Triple Deck PizzaMaster Oven is IN!

PizzaMaster 943 Installation & Bakers Pride Y602-BL Removal

One of the most exciting events for a restaurant owner is adding a piece of equipment that makes you more efficient, makes a better product or increases output. This PizzaMaster Oven does all 3! I first spied this oven in 2015 at the Pizza Expo when we just opened and didn’t know our ass from our proverbial elbows. 3 years later, the oven is in our store, and, in an amazing turn of events, I will be doing a menu demonstration at the 2018 Pizza Expo in Las Vegas on 3-22-18! Hard work, dedication and incremental improvement is the root of success.

Why would we upgrade from a Bakers Pride to this PizzaMaster Oven? In short, technological advancements. It’s the same reason you no longer have a startac flip-phone!  To begin, it has adjustable heat for the top and bottom of each deck, so you can change the intensity of your heat and where it’s applied to the pizza on a per-deck basis. Each deck has multiple zones of top heat so the area by the door has a higher intensity element to compensate for the opening and closing of the glass doors. IT HAS GLASS DOORS! You don’t have to open the door to look and let all that heat out. The result is faster bake times. The PizzaMaster 943 has 3 decks with a total capacity of 24 LARGE PIES! By large, we actually mean 18″ large pies. Imagine being able to put 24 of them in at one time! This oven can reach temperatures that most ovens couldn’t dream of and many people cannot use. Our wood-fired, brick-oven has taught me so much about how heat can be used to create different pies. The stones in this oven are precision ground to promote convection and air movement under the pizza. The technology is off-the-chart and will bring us to the next level.

Installing the PizzaMaster oven was no easy feat. Tons of planning went into having every tool and piece of equipment necessary, having the right people on-hand and electricians who are true masters of their craft. In order to do this upgrade, we had to pay for an additional electric transformer on the telephone pole by Estes Park Light and Power, we had to upgrade our electrical service to accommodate this beauty and wait over 3 months for it to be built in Sweden, then transported via container ship. Patience is a virtue! Invest in a better product at every opportunity.

That’s a mighty big box!
One of my favorite places is in the drivers seat of this beast.
Ok, it’s off the truck. Time to remove the old oven!
What a job it was getting the Bakers Pride out of the building. We had to turn them on their sides to get them out. Each of these pieces weighs 1300lbs or so.
Would you look at the size of this thing!! How are we going to get that in the building?? See the blue cross bar on top of the oven? I made that piece to balance the load. It’s a lot of fun trying to solve a puzzle like this.
A 2200lb capacity pallet jack that lifts to 30″ was key to our success. You can buy these at Harbor Freight.
That yellow boom sticking off the front of our skid steer is priceless. It helped us maneuver the oven right through the side of the building!
You can see by my smile just how enjoyable a moment this was.
Holy cow!
Some additional perspective!
Almost in!!!
This oven was in place and operational within 30 minutes of trying to get it in the building!
In place and on!
Within 2 hours we were cooking pies! Big thanks to Christer Andersson of PizzaMaster for producing such an awesome piece of equipment; Mark Hipskind of MPM Equipment, Michael Fairholm of Artisan Pizza Solutions and Tony Gemignani for connecting me with them all! Our crew absolutely executed flawlessly and we did the removal and installation in only a few hours.
This oven has a max temp of 932 degrees! Thats right, 932 degrees.
Specially constructed stones have a knurled pattern which promotes convection and they offer very high thermal transfer rates.

Year 3: Harnessing Growth & Opening Location 2.

During the early months of 2017, we experienced growth that looked unsustainable because it was the low season. Turns out it was foreshadowing of the season to come. What were we going to do if it continued? We need a bigger boat and more staff and and and… But first, we had big plans for the building itself. We had an entire wall of windows installed along the river, which, when open, allow both a breeze and the sound of rapids to share your table. These windows combined with new booths that came in a month later made a tremendous impact. Most people who walked in the door said “whoooa, what has changed here?”

What a difference a wall of windows made!

These changes weren’t the biggest thing up our sleeve we had another location in the works and not just a location, a drive-thru pizzeria. WHAT? What the hell is a drive-thru pizzeria? Is there even such a thing? Then the questions came: do you prepare the pizza at the other store? How can you cook a pizza in two minutes? What’s the phone number? How dow we order? All preparation is done in the main store, then sent over fresh every day to the drive-thru. The pizza is made to order, stretched by hand, then cooked, when you are speaking it over the speakerbox. But wait, there are slices too? Yes! You can have slice of pizza to go that is ready in 40 seconds? How? Research and development! That’s how! The risk was off-the-chart and meant we would have to send some of our best people to run it and take them away from the main store. So much research went into this concept, to open it with zero advance fanfare only compounded the risk. No Mayor ribbon cutting, no “COMING SOON”, no ads in the paper, menu guide, no flyers, NOTHING. At 1 am on June 1st, I put the sign up alone, in the dark just as I had with SummitView’s coffee sign. “What a surprise these people would have in the morning”, I thought. It was a powerful moment for we began selling pizza out of that location when it was SummitView Coffee, a coffee shop that I built in 2012. The idea that in 5 years – almost to the day – we went from coffee, to a pizzeria on Elkhorn, closing the drive-thru to focus on perfecting pizza, to re-opening the drive-thru as a second location was an overwhelming realization. I sat out front of the store after putting the signs up and smiled, thanking all those who had believed in and supported these crazy ideas.

Full drive-thru is a great proof of concept. 10 cars without the second window open!

The drive-thru was an instant hit and grew to double my initial goal- in 60 days. Meanwhile, the main store was reaching critical mass, driving up wait times by the beginning of July. Being in unfamiliar territory, I reached out to 12-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani who has 17 stores and could run two in his sleep. He said, “get out here and bring a list of your bottlenecks”. Off to San Francisco with my wife and daughter to see the oracle and what a trip it was. Prior to meeting with Tony, we went to Boudin’s, the oldest continuously run bakery in the USA, only to meet one of the owners who discussed bread making with me at length sharing insights that helped us improve our dough.

“If you seek, you shall find” was running through my mind. Meeting with Tony again was very different than taking his courses at the Pizza Expo. He asked questions that cut right to the chase, helped me see that we needed more oven temp, perhaps a bigger oven, more expediting area and stronger staff. After getting back and reconfiguring the entire kitchen the very next day, we reduced average wait times by 20 minutes and had our best day ever.

Tony Gemignani and I in March 2015. Taking his class was a pivotal moment in my life and definitely changed the trajectory of our pizza. Seek out the best you can find and learn from them!

What I must explain at this point, is that it was not all unicorns and puppy dogs, there was turmoil, turnover, trials that tested us all and shook some of the folks who couldn’t make the cut, off the proverbial tree. It also caused people to rise to new levels and take ownership at a level not previously seen. Our core staff absolutely rocked! We have two husband and wife teams and 6 New Yorkers including my daughter. We have worked very hard at creating a family atmosphere and just like family, it’s not always smooth. We are, after-all, human. One of the young men still with us started at age 14 and is now graduating high school. To see him grow and become a man right in front of our eyes was such a blessing. Being able to go off and learn would not be possible with out managers who have my absolute trust and admiration. I do not think twice when they are in charge. Nurture your staff and they will grow. To this end, we sit down with staff every night and have dinner together. Many business owners treat their staff like lepers who shouldn’t be seen much less eat with them(GASP). If you are one of these owners, try treating them like the valued part of your business they are and watch what happens. It doesn’t solve all your problems by any means, but you can learn a lot breaking bread with people. And like Jiro says “in order to make delicious food, you must eat delicious food?”

Towards the end of year 3, a strange thing happened: opportunities were coming to us, we weren’t having to look for them. Four separate building owners approached us about taking over their buildings. This was an absolute honor and the significance not lost on me. I’ve been running businesses for over 20 years and have learned quite a few lessons that came with scars. One of them is “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should”. I have to repeat this mantra over and over to keep from making mistakes by biting off more than we can chew.

Lastly, the biggest honor bestowed to-date – bigger than being in magazines or reaching the top of any chart, came in an email from the CEO of the Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. It seems they were looking for a couple of up-and-coming pizzeria owners to come and do a demo, teaching other pizzeria owners, on-stage.  If you’ve been following us since the beginning, you’ll remember the photo of me being on-stage, critiqued as an attendee.  In March 2018, after only three years, I will complete the circle from being an attendee to taking the stage to teach. #standup #taketheshot

Stay tuned in 2018! More big things up our sleeve.

Pizza as a Science

Gone are the days of stereotypical guidos making pizza in white t-shirts. When companies like Chipotle start backing pizzerias, there is far more thought and science going into the processes than you would believe. Having only been in the game a short time, I have quickly learned that just about any heat source will cook a pizza, but to cook it well, you have to understand the physics behind thermal transfer, how weight affects cook times and characteristics, how sugars affect the browning of your crust and how that relates to limitations in temperatures, how to use a brick oven and where the pizza should be placed based on temperature gradients in the brick floor, etc., etc.  In short, the people who are truly knowledgeable have left no stone unturned in becoming so. I am quickly becoming one of those people. It’s in my DNA. Here are my observations:

Technological Progress in Ovens

There was a time when every pizzeria had similar deck ovens, be it a Baker’s Pride, Blodgett, Peerless, etc. Today, there are probably 100 pizza oven manufacturers competing in the space. Italian and American oven manufacturers have begun offering traditional looking wood-fired brick ovens with rotating floors. The kicker is they aren’t wood fired! Most are electric or gas but have the same finish as wood or coal-fired. This rotating floor takes away the skill requirement of being able to rotate pies in a brick oven.

It simply goes around one complete turn and when it reappears, needs to be removed. Contrast this with the skill needed to read the dough’s readiness to be turned, understand the difference between blistering and burned and most importantly: being able to read the little whisps of smoke that speak to blistering on a wood/coal-fired pizza that tells you it’s time to rotate. What this does – in addition to removing the skill requirement – is allow for a lower level employee to run the oven. Is it bad? Yes and no. Yes, because anyone can scoop a finished pizza from an oven and there goes another skill lost to technology. No, because a typical barrier to artisan pizza is the dexterity required to run a real brick oven. Move the pizza too early and it’s trash, move it too late and it’s burned. That’s a skill, like glass blowing. These ovens are in the $20k plus range and weigh 4-6000 lbs.

Rotating deck ovens are only one type of pizza oven that are changing the game. There is much more science in some of the electric ovens out today. Companies like PizzaMaster have very sophisticated controls over the decks. I have seen proprietary stones, decks made out of lava rock, etc. Embedded in the stones are heating elements. The coldest area of a traditional pizza oven or brick oven is the area in front of the door. In these electric ovens, the door area is kept hotter than the rest of the oven to compensate for the opening and closing. Try that with your wood-fired brick oven. These ovens are even more expensive and require 3-phase power to run them. I just looked into adding this option and the electric company wants $15 grand to run it to the pole. From the pole to the building is my problem and likely another $4 grand.

A third class of ovens which are changing the game are small footprint, ventless ovens made by companies like Turbo Chef. Turbo Chef makes a little oven called the “Fire”.

It heats to 842 degrees, has convection top and bottom and separate heating elements and digital controls. It costs just under $5 grand. For a single pizza oven limited to 14″. It cooks a pizza in 2 minutes flat. No bull. Two minutes! Compare this with the traditional 6-7 minutes in a deck oven and you have an ace in the hole. In 6 minutes, this oven will put three pizzas on your customers tables without the requirement of a hood. That means you could put one in an office building and make pizza for lunch. Game changing technology and the science of convection coupled with high heat.

Having multiple ovens has really helped us increase output. This wouldn’t have been possible without an increased understanding which can only be gained through experience and the willingness to break from convention. It has allowed us to put a serious number of pizzas out using each of the tools when and where necessary. We currently have 4 ovens, each running at a different temperature.

Brick lined top and bottom, the Bakers Pride ovens in the foreground are formidable. 4 minute bake time? Yup. The smaller 4 deck Peerless is what we started with and it never faltered, we simply outgrew it’s capacity. Again, a great problem to have. The brick oven behind Antonio is a work of art.

The brick oven is obscenely hot but due to it’s large deck, allows us to even cook calzones in there by putting them further from the fire. Each successive year has brought challenges to Antonio’s due to growth and part of the solution has been in oven technology. Going to the Pizza Expo has exposed me to solutions I would never have known to be available. Plus, the guys who designed the ovens are standing there and will answer any questions you have. This is invaluable. Anyone who isn’t going, is standing still and will be passed by those who attend – and more importantly – adapt to the changing environment. Pizza is serious business people!

About 8 months ago, I began investigating how thermal heat transfer affects pizza. It’s crystal clear to me now that different materials transfer heat and absorb it, at far different rates. Understanding these rates will help you choose materials that will increase throughput without sacrifice. All come at a cost. A few months back, the universe sent in a geothermal physicist who, after enjoying a pizza, helped me understand how to use steel or aluminum/steel cooking surface and explained that steel will be cooler than the surrounding air because of how fast it transfers heat. This led me to cook pizza on one to see the difference. It really worked! The transfer of energy is so fast that the steel mimics a wood-fired deck that is much hotter. If you shave a minute off every pizza and lose nothing in finished product, you are seeing a huge increase in productivity. To help me understand, the physicist offered this analogy: touch a hot brick on a summer’s day and you can have a second or two before it transfers enough heat to burn you. Try that with a black car’s hood in the sun. Near instant burn. Suddenly, I was looking up heat transfer rates of various metals and thinking why doesn’t someone make ferro-cement decks. I’m probably too early on this idea. To compare surfaces, I tried ceramic, aluminum, steel/aluminum and cordierite. Each had its own sweet spot and we could run the cordierite at a much higher temp than the aluminum because of the transfer rate differences. Cordierite transferred heat slower which led to a crisper bottom. Aluminum mimicked a wood-fired oven in look and feel but at a lower temperature. Steel is a beast! Ceramic has a nice cook but we shattered it too easily. There is another stone made of the same brick in a Kiln which I would like to try. I feel like we are in science lab at times and love it.

Pizza Prep Table Progress

Another bottleneck area in a pizzeria – prep tables – has been addressed with technology. Randell makes a Dual Rail pizza prep table that effectively doubles the number of topping pans available to your pizza makers. Instead of 9 maximum in a 72″ table, there are 18 pans worth of toppings. No more opening and reaching into a drawer or pans falling out onto the floor. Technology in this piece is awesome as well. Temperature controls for each rail, plus a separate control for the area underneath. Two drains built in that actually work. $9 grand worth of technology that allows multiple pizza makers to put together pies quickly without shuffling continually. Priceless. We run the system with the controls set on 3 out of 10. That’s how powerful it is. The emerging pattern you are seeing is that technology is not cheap, yet these technologies create efficiencies that were previously impossible.


Dough and Sauce – nothing but chemical formulas

The top-secret recipes that every pizzeria thinks is the best(us included) are nothing more than chemical formulas. Add sugar, the sauce is sweeter. Add aunt Gianna’s basil and the sauce is smoother.  Most people don’t realize how much trial and error goes into sauce. Underlying it all is science. Some people cook their sauce to stop the breakdown of naturally occurring proteins which can ruin a sauce. For example, powdered garlic is stable whereas diced fresh garlic is continually decomposing as it ages. The latter sauce has a much shorter lifespan but tastes better. Sealed cans alleviate some of this but not many of us have an actual cannery…

Dough is actually a living organism whose lifespan is determined by many factors, including:

  • temperature of the water added to the mixer
  • the amount of heat generated by the mixing process
  • how quickly it is refrigerated
  • the amount of yeast added
  • ambient temperature of your store
  • sugars available to the yeast
  • whether or not you use cold fermentation
  • aeration based on mixer type(fork or spiral vs planetary)


Everything you do in a restaurant involves a scientific process. From how you answer the phone, how you transmit the order – on paper or a computer screen, how you time your orders, deliveries, track drivers, prioritize dine-in customers, how you prep vegetables based on seasonality, even how your people wash dishes- everything is a process. People who do not continually hone their processes are bound to stagnate or fail. You must continue to improve or be passed by competitors. We have only been open 2.5 years and have gone through mad changes. Changes that pissed off employees but resulted in a much better way of doing things. Your goal as owner and chief bottle washer is to streamline every process for your employees. If you leave it to employee whim, there is no chance at consistency. There are many ways to do everything. Don’t worry about everyone else, just make it better one step at a time. If you don’t have that knowledge or are having trouble with a process, ask another business owner. I personally know nothing about franchising, but when approached by three different groups of investors, had to reach out to someone who did and chose to pass. If you don’t know how to schedule prep or dough and keep throwing out too much, ask someone who does. I remember the day we had 35 orders up and the ticket holder couldn’t actually hold that many. We added another. Imagine scanning 35 receipts trying to find the right one. At that moment, I began searching for kitchen display screens and a program to print to them. We started with one screen that was too small. Added a second. Now we have 4 and send off orders to the station that should receive them. The science of change.

Connections are pure science that we don’t understand

Connections define people. Those with long-term connections that are strong tend to facilitate them easily. As a believer in Einstein’s “String Theory” I believe we are all connected with some connections much stronger than others. This is what brings people together. The value of great mentors is immeasurable for they provide the wisdom that only experience can offer. Finding them is the hard part. The pizza industry as a whole is far more nurturing than any industry I’ve previously been involved with. The ability to bounce ideas off people with 20-50 years of experience is simply incredible. Guys like Tony Gemignani, Tom Lehman and Chef Chris Gonzalez have listened to my crazy ideas and offered advice or guidance. At the 2017 pizza Expo, I spoke with Glenn Cybulski who offered: if you need anything or have a question, call me. The idea that someone who has sacrificed and invested years in honing their craft will share that knowledge is a solid indicator that I’m with the right people for I constantly share knowledge. I will be one of these guys in time and don’t take their kindness for granted. Thank you, Gentlemen. Had I not attended the Pizza Expo in 2015, 2016 and 2017, I would not know Tony, Glenn or Tom. Leave no stone unturned in your quest to create memorable pizzas for your customers or family. And remember, pizza is actually a science, not “just a pizza”.


Year 2: Innovation & Growth


The two Amigos who run this show. Coincidentally, they have the same first name, are both from New York, both are uncompromising men of integrity.
Tony on the left, Antonio on the right. Coincidentally, they have the same given first name, are both from New York, both are uncompromising men of integrity and both speak fluent pizza. Standing by these men are women of even better caliber. Yes, it’s true.

“What a great problem to have!”
This was said to me many times in the face of lines out the door, lines before we opened complete with a full parking lot and 30 orders on the board at dinner. On this side of the counter, the surge is daunting – often overwhelming but we innovated our way to handling volume we didn’t believe possible. We had several aces in the hole: an absolutely committed, resourceful, intelligent team, innovation and international workers. Without any of these three components, our second summer could have been a disaster. But it wasn’t. It was glorious! 

Innovation is the difference between work and discernible, quantifiable progress.

brick oven

There are many restaurant owners who come in, do the work every day, go home happy without changing much. Then there are guys like me who continually challenge convention. While it can drive your staff nuts, positive change with an eye toward customer satisfaction, increasing efficiency, output or throughput is the answer to the problems in the first paragraph. Space has always been the challenge in our little corner of Estes Park. In Pizza making, there are many traditions that the elders will not break with. When I asked a guy from Brooklyn who had been making pizza for over 40 years whether dough would suffer any adverse effects if we used sheet pans instead of the tried and true plastic dough trays synonymous that most use, he said “it’s always been done this way. Why would you change?”. I had my answer and knew it was time for a change. In the same refrigerator space we can fit 14 trays of dough in the big plastic ones, we can fit 21 sheet pans with more surface area which means more pizza!

pizza dough on sheet pans
Dough on sheet pans instead of plastic bins.
One day, I thought about how some people would crowd the counter and tap their feet waiting impatiently for a pie during the 6pm dinner rush regardless of how fast we make the pies and chatter about how long it had been. It wasn’t fair to those who waited for a table and were now enjoying their food to have grumbling people staring at them. At that moment, I knew we had to control the flow from outside of the building, so we added a host kiosk complete with a register and receipt printer. Boy did that make a huge difference. Everyone looked at me with disbelief when this kiosk arrived but we cannot imagine being without it.

Alliyah at the Kiosk
Alliyah at the Kiosk

The host kiosk was added just in time! Shortly after its arrival, we received a call from Food Network Magazine asking for photos of our food for an upcoming feature on the best restaurants in Rocky Mountain National Park. We were already in the top 3 Estes Park restaurants on Yelp and Trip Advisor so this cemented the notion that our popularity was no fluke. What an honor. Antonio’s was only a year and a half old!

Antonio’s Real New York Pizza is featured in Food Network Magazine’s July/Aug 2016 issue!

Food Network Magazine! Antonio's Real NY Pizza in Food Network Magazine Antonio's Real NY Pizza in Food Network Magazine!


4 pizza Margherita headed for the wood fire.
Tony with 4 beautiful Neapolitan pies headed for the wood fire.

And in the people came – in droves. This exposed other flaws in our workflows that needed immediate attention to handle the influx of people. Stronger ovens, better prep tables, a better mixer, new processes, smarter, more timely prep before rushes and on and on. Plus we needed more help! This town is notorious for it’s shallow workforce pool and I hadn’t previously seen international students for the ray of light they are. Sure there were communication, cultural and language barriers, but we overcame it with genuine care for our people and customers. They rose to the occasion and we formed some of the strongest bonds I’ve ever seen. When men and women cry because they are going home and their bosses do too, the bonds are very strong. One of the best things we ever did was have dinner as a group every night. As an Italian, I really missed the camaraderie of friends and family at meals and with this new group we restored that. On each of the weekend nights, we had a different ethnic food. Fridays were the foods of Uzbekistan, Saturday was Czech Republic, Sunday was Jamaican or any mix thereof. The pride in these young, capable men and women when making foods that represented their countries was intense. We came to love all these variations and cherished weekend nights as much as the students loved sharing their foods.

The impact these International students left on me is so profound that I really have to share more with you. Imagine flying to America from 6-8000 miles away, finding a room, being homesick and in the hands of your American bosses. This must have been so stressful and I did see a few breakdowns where they wanted to go home. I really felt for them and so did Tony and Kate. Tony, being the great adventurers they are, took people all over the place to see what Colorado and this place called America was all about. Of course this was done on days they were off and I was on so the stories and photos had to suffice for me. I loved the idea of it and this year will be even better. There will be some days we are all off together so I can enjoy this group too. Speaking of group, most every one of them are already handing in paperwork to return and some are bringing reinforcements. That’s confirmation enough for me that we have a wonderful work environment and team.
The crew! img_2043 img_2266

American workers remain elusive despite great pay, health insurance and a caring, nurturing environment. Estes Park is expensive for workers and housing is difficult to find. It’s like New York but not as expensive. In NY, there are so many people available for the same job, you are able to find those with work ethic easily. I’ve discussed this at length previously and nothing has changed.   Some of the International workers are or will become US citizens and are moving here to work for they have seen the opportunity that the USA offers. Not just money, but opportunity to create their own businesses and fulfill their drive to succeed. Most of them were 3rd year university students, a few were Masters degree students and two were PhD in biomedical engineering. Speaking of education, our full-time staff of only 5 Americans has about 700 college credits… In a pizzeria adjoining Rocky Mountain National Park. In Colorado. AND ALL ARE FROM NEW YORK!  That is really something when you think about it and the same reasons underly our moves from New York: the beauty of nature, opportunity and a love for wildlife. Lastly, I cannot express the depth to which we miss our friends Sheneil, Alliyah, Krystal, Rustambek, Martina, Katie, Komiljon, Petr, Tomas, Adam, Madina and Sardor. Their smiles, their drive, their desire to learn and master any task. These are attributes I respect immensely. It will not be too soon that they return. When someone works up until their last minute just to not leave you short, you know they have your back. Blessed are we.

Back to the innovation: how do you cook 30 pizzas in a 16 pizza oven? Good question. It took a while, but I saw the parallel between the wood-fired brick oven and the newer deck ovens that have bricks above the pizza as well as below. These deck ovens act similar to a wood fired oven in the way the pizza cooks just at a lower temperature. After much due-diligence, we bought one and it outperformed our original beautiful stainless oven by a large margin. Ah-ha! A deck oven is only second to a wood-fired in heat. Higher heat changes taste profiles but it also can destroy any wet vegetables by forcing them to release all of their water. Can you say swamp? Let’s just say the answer to my question at the beginning of this paragraph is to combine the cooking between the two ovens which is also unheard of. Two years later and we are still filled with the wonder that leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of excellence. In addition to the wonder, there are people who actually know the answers and I would like to thank them individually: Tony Gemignani for taking my calls and texts at all hours and imparting knowledge on me that is cherished, and Tom Lehman, the dough doctor for answering my questions regarding mixers, sheet pans and dough itself in great detail. Tony asked me to pay it forward by helping others and I already have. Thank you both.

Brick lined top and bottom, the Bakers Pride ovens in the foreground are formidable. 4 minute bake time? Yup. The smaller 4 deck Peerless is what we started with and it never faltered, we simply outgrew it's capacity. Again, a great problem to have. The brick oven behind Antonio is a work of art.
Brick lined top and bottom, the Bakers Pride ovens in the foreground are formidable. 4 minute bake time? Yup. The smaller 4 deck Peerless Ovens unit is what we started with and it never faltered, we simply outgrew its capacity. Again, a great problem to have. The brick oven behind Antonio is a work of art.

You cannot get here without great people who value whatever you make or sell and we have them in droves. There were nights where we screwed up their pie trying something new that failed but they never left. They didn’t beat the shit out of us in a review like some of our competitors and their people did. They came back the next week and we bettered the prior result. That’s what perseverance is. Don’t stop until you get it right. Everyone on our team qualifies as a pizza zealot. It has to be right, period. Thank you all for the opportunity.

A big thanks to some very special people: Kerri, Barb, Chris and Maggie, Rik, Dave C,  Scott McD and family, Crossroads Ministry, Victims advocates, Aaron from the Barrel, Aaron from Fire Mountain, Carissa and Josh, Ben, Joe, Dave, Ladies from the Elkhorn, Chris, Dave and Chris, Stephen and his boys; all those who bring their families in, people we’ve never met who are always chiming in on Facebook, Vicki, Sondra, Ron G and all the rest for the support; folks who drive up from Loveland, Parker, Denver, Nunn, Brush, Laramie, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, and a big hug to Laurie D. for the love, goodies and energy you bring when visiting. To all those who refer us in the lodges, buses, trolleys, downtown, we love you and appreciate it. Seeing the same faces every week or so means we are meeting their needs with a quality product and I revel in saying hello to our regulars.

We are grateful for everyone who has given us a shot. To the restaurant owners who have lent a hand or an employee or toppings, we are here for you as well and will not forget.

A funny story regarding the Estes Trolley: one day, mid-summer, the power went out downtown and we were one of the only restaurants with power. We heard about it right away, then the Trolley began dumping 30-50 people at a time at our doorstep. At one point, there were well over 120 people outside waiting for pizza. What an opportunity! We got to an hour and a half wait and used every piece of dough in the entire store and we have two days worth on hand. There came a point where we would see the trolley again and panic. What a day!

Growth has brought success, failure, envy and sharks. The success is apparent by the crowds and the fact that we are only need to be open a few hours a day; it comes in the reviews and words spoken directly to us on a regular basis. Words like: “this is the best pizza I’ve ever had and I’m 82 years old”; “we own an Italian restaurant in NYC and have for decades and can say this is as good as anything in NYC”. The failure comes from missed opportunities due to our building being too small, our production being limited to X, our own strikeouts. The envy is from competitors and the digs that pervade reviews fostered by their envy; nasty comments from “locals” who are loyal to other restaurants in town; people who quietly follow us on FB yet click “hide this post” or “hide all posts” on positive posts, etc. We see you… The sharks are those who ask questions that are not innocent. Some are competitors, others potential investors, one even offered to buy our sauce recipe and not use it in the United States and called many times. Just last week, I witnessed a guy who was clearly not just a customer rip apart the crust the same way I would when being critical, smell it, then called me over to point out something a layman never could. So, I took his picture with the pizza. No further questions except “can we get a box to go?”. We’ve had three potential investors show genuine interest and here’s the best shark question: “I read all your stuff about the best ingredients, but if I wanted to reproduce this pizza where would I start?”. AYFKM? That question will get you shown the door. I’m a real NY’er born and raised on the streets with rather tough parents. Who asks a question like that? Did he think it would be answered? The good karma we have been shown for our efforts and discretion is indescribable. Flattery came in the form of  the mother of a competitor coming in with the Food Network article saying “don’t tell my son I was here; I just had to taste it”.

So far in this life, I’ve experienced devastating failure, incredible success and everything on the way up, then down, then up again. The perseverance that drives me to put shoes on in the morning comes with a serious set of standards. Don’t bother putting those shoes on unless you are going to swing for the fence every day, remain true to your self and as consistent as humanly possible. Our food is hand made, fresh, with love and a passion that you simply don’t find very often. We look forward to many years making people smile and providing many memorable meals with friends and loved ones.

To our employees, wives, husbands and families of our people, thank you for putting up with, and supporting our sacrifice to be excellent at what we do. #RaiseTheBar

Integrity is innate. You cannot learn it, buy it, find it or steal it. If you know anyone of integrity looking for a great place to work, send them to Antonio’s.