John Fazio tell John Carman What’s What
When I created Pizza Walk With Me, the very site you’re reading, I wanted to focus not only on pizza culture, but the pizza creators. Behind every great pizza is a great pizza guy or gal. In this edition, I interviewed John Fazio, the owner and mastermind behind Fazio’s in Bloomfield. Without further ado, here’s the Q&A!
Pizza Walk With Me (PWWM): How long have you been at your current Bloomfield location?
John Fazio (JF): Since June 2010.
PWWM: So you’re newish to the area?
JF: Well we had a restaurant up the street years ago, the original Fazio’s. It was open for 15 years.
PWWM: How is the pizza scene been treating you?
JF: It’s fantastic here and the pizza speaks for itself.
PWWM: How do you separate yourself from the crowd?
We have a white pizza that’s different than everyone else’s. Ours comes with tomato, ricotta cheese, and oil and garlic. The price is also just the same as the rest of our pizzas. We actually have a crown in our window that we won in a pizza contest thanks to our white pizza. There was a contest up in Bloomfield, at Moose Hall. All the locals brought a pizza from their area and whoever liked it put their initials put their bottom on the box. At the end of the night they came back to our shop and told us that out of 40 pizza shops, ours got the most votes.
PWWM: Do you guys do anything new or different?
JF: We are a traditional pizza shop with hoagies, wings, fries and salads.
Slicing up some of their NY Style Pizza
PWWM: I’ve heard your pizza is kind of New Jersey Style
JF: Well, we got slices that are like a new york style. When we were younger we went to New Jersey to work at the pizza shops on the boardwalk. They’d call us up and a gang of us would spend the summer there making pizzas. Back then in grade school, we made money out there. After all those years, pizza just stuck. It was something I did.
PWWM: How are you enjoying it then? Is it something you’re proud of?
JF: Ah yeah, it’s a good thing to do, but you have no life in this business. You have no vacation, no days off, no family time. But it’s not something I regret, not at all. It’s just that you have to be dedicated to it because when you start something like this you have to stick with it. You have to be here. You can’t have other people doing things, everything has to be made by the same person so it’s consistent and reliable for your customers.
PWWM: So you’re making all this stuff by hand?
JF: Yep, everything is made fresh daily. Nothing is shipped in frozen, we chop up our vegetables fresh, make the garlic every day, everything is done by hand here.
PWWM: Do you have a favorite pizza?
JF: The white pizza is my favorite.
PWWM: Have you ever tried another white pizza you like?
JF: I try them all the time, I can’t say there’s no comparison, but it’s pretty much the ingredients that make a difference.
PWWM: Do you think there’s such a thing as Pittsburgh Style Pizza?
JF: I guess it’s not as thin and not as thick. Chicago deep dish is that thick pizza and the New York style boardwalk pizza is usually really thin. I think that the pizza shops in Pittsburgh are usually in-between, not too thin and not too thick.
PWWM: Do you think that’s a good thing?
JF: It’s good, it’s different. People come from NY and they’re surprised to find the pizza is much different than it is there.
PWWM: I’ve heard that you can’t find good pizza out west, I have a brother in Chicago who hates all the pizza there. You see that often?
JF: I get a lot of people coming to Fazio’s looking for that New York style pizza. There’s a guy across the street who orders it all the time. He wants that thin crust pizza. I have a lot of people on the phone who call up looking for that thin crust pizza. So what we do is use a smaller dough and stretch it nice and big. It’s by request only, but we’re happy to cater to our customers. Though, you don’t get the large slices, but you get the quality of it.
PWWM: If you could sum up your pizza shop, what would it be? What do you want people to take away from Fazios?
JF: I think I want people to come to Fazio’s and leave here talking to their friends about it. I want them coming back saying, “I got such a great slice here, you gotta come.” That’s how it all works here, I would rather people come in here, try a slice and tell their friends because the advertisement side of this business is out of control.
PWWM: What do you mean it’s out of control?
JF: It’s $150- $200 a week to advertise, which adds up to about a $1,000 more a month. I’d rather someone like you come into my store, leave here saying it’s awesome which creates this chain reaction that brings people back to my store, bringing my business back.
This is the crown Fazio’s won for their white pizza. Excuse the blurriness.
PWWM: That brings up a question, is that why the Penny Saver is always dominated by pizza shops on the front and back?
JF: I mean, to me, I couldn’t afford to put an ad in that paper every week. What I want is to have a conversation with my customers like you and I are doing right now. Having the same customers come back is what keeps me moving. Anyone can come buy a pizza one time, and if they don’t like it they don’t come back. There are hundreds of other options in Pittsburgh. I have guys who come from Brentwood and Mt. Lebanon just to buy my pizza. I grew up on pizza right here in Bloomfield, and when I found out about Fiori’s Pizzaria in Capitol Avenue, it was awesome so I use to drive from Bloomfield to get that pizza. Now I have people coming from the outskirts to get my pizza which makes me feel good. Basically, I just want someone to say “Hey I tried Fazio’s it was good and I’d recommend it to anyone.” We try to do our best to make things the same to ensure our customers can depend on that quality.
PWWM: Do you think pizza places kind of live or die by their customer loyalty?
JF: I think so. I have a gentlemen who came in here not too long ago who put a ton of money into his own pizza shop and it didn’t even last a year. It’s hard especially since the location and the product are so important in this business. You can open a pizza shop anywhere, but if you don’t have a quality product no one is going to come back. We’re family operated with my kids so it’s more family operated which means our tradition and quality maintains. Once you have a family operated business everything stays the same. That’s the main thing I want to keep going, is the consistency. Not one person makes something different than the other.
PWWM: What steps are you taking to maintain this quality and consistency?
JF: Well, only one person created the product. One person makes the dough, only one person makes the sauce, only one person does everything. I can tell you how to make the sauce, but it wouldn’t taste the way I make it. It’s always different, but when the same person makes the same thing you get that consistent taste all the time.
At this point in the interview John gave me a tour of his facilities claiming it was the cleanest pizza shop around. I thought, sure, okay, that’s what everyone says, but he’s not lying. The bathrooms are cleaner than mine at home and his ovens looked like they were just installed yesterday. His basement/storage area was pristine and could easily be rented out to a pizza journalist down on their luck. His storage space was well organized and filled to the brim with supplies. “I could make 500 pizzas for the Pittsburgh Penguins if they called me up right now,” John stated with a glowing smile.
It’s a great pizza shop that’s filled with pride as much as their pizzas are full of flavor.
If you have any suggestions for pizza places you want me to pop into next, don’t hesitate to leave me a message here.