By Sandra Farmer
Sam Risoldi is a self-described pizza and tomato pie connoisseur, but admits that might be an understatement.
“Cut my veins open and you’ll get tomato pie,” he said with a laugh, describing his enthusiasm for the dish.
That enthusiasm led Risoldi, the owner of the Great Valu grocery store on Quakerbridge Road, to convince a lifelong friend, Rick DeLorenzo Jr., to bring his pizzas to the new café at the store.
It was an idea several years in the making, and after a successful launch both business owners said they are optimistic about the future.
“So far it’s been really good,” said DeLorenzo, the owner of DeLorenzo’s Pizza on Hamilton Avenue in Trenton. “I’m really happy with it.”
DeLorenzo carries on a tradition his father began more than 50 years ago. Pizza fans will note there is also a DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies on Hudson Avenue in Trenton owned by a cousin of the Hamilton Avenue DeLorenzo’s. The Hudson Avenue business now has an additional location on Route 33 in Robbinsville.
DeLorenzo said he had not been actively looking to open a second location, but Risoldi’s enthusiasm and commitment to making it happen brought the project to fruition this summer.
DeLorenzo said although expanding was not a response to the new Route 33 location of DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies, the businesses have a history of friendly competition.
“It’s not a big rivalry,” he said. “We’re all friends.”
Having researched other possibilities for additional locations over the years, he said he had not found the right one until this arrangement.
“[Risoldi] came to me, and I’m really glad he did,” he said. “He asked years ago, but I wasn’t ready yet.”
DeLorenzo said the quality of the toppings and thin, crisp, light crust are the signatures of his dish. The service, he said, is also important. Employees of the Hamilton Avenue location also staff Risoldi’s and make the pies fresh all day on site.
Both locations offer the same menu options, with the added bonus that being located inside a supermarket makes it possible for the café location to grab an ingredient for a special topping when the need arises. On a typical weekday, a customer could expect to see plain, pepperoni, white spinach pizza and eggplant among the offerings. Single slices — which are not available at the Hamilton Avenue location — whole pies or anything on the regular menu are available to eat in or take out at the café.
The main pizza ingredients all come from the Hamilton Avenue location and are brought in fresh each day. Risoldi said the freshness of the ingredients is one of the keys to a good pizza or tomato pie. The difference between the two terms is simple, he added. A tomato pie has more tomatoes and less cheese than a pizza.
Great Valu’s suburban location near a large movie theater, a heavily traveled road and an entrance to I-295 was attractive because it is convenient for many people who might not make it into the restaurant on Hamilton Avenue on a regular basis, DeLorenzo said.
“A lot of customers I haven’t seen in years, I see there,” he said.
Bringing a local family pizza business into his store’s space is part of what the owners said is their hands-on philosophy.
“We make everything from scratch,” said Clarice Risoldi, Sam Risoldi’s wife.
Italian sausage, meatballs, bread and other dishes are for sale in the café area. The Risoldis said they pride themselves on not using artificial ingredients. But they also want customers to be able to “pick up and go” if they are in a hurry, she said.
In September, the supermarket was in the midst of a large renovation that began with the opening of the café and food court and a pharmacy, and was planning to continue with a coffee kiosk, an expanded seafood department and additional retail space. A grand reopening is expected to be scheduled in October, Clarice Risoldi said.