THE PIZZA GUY AGAWAM, MASSACHUSSETTS
Robert Aversa and his wife, Karen, own The Pizza Guy, a small carryout and delivery brick-oven pizza shop in Agawam, Massachusetts. The Aversas grow a garden behind the pizzeria to provide fresh herbs and produce.
From the beginning, we always wanted to keep the menu small so we could concentrate on making a few items exceptional as opposed to making many items just mediocre. We take pride in the fact that we have a relatively small inventory, yet have been able to create a variety of menu items by using our ingredients interchangeably. Simplicity is also reflected within our recipes, which was recognized by judges during the 2011 Valley Food Championship Playoffs. They referred to our pizza as “Simple Done Right” — a phrase we have since adopted as our motto.
We think that having the garden behind the pizza shop has definitely added to our reputation as it has has peaked customer interest from miles away. During the growing season, our customers get fresh basil and peppers that have literally been picked moments before their pizza is served. Unfortunately, living in New England, we have a very limited growing season. Therefore, we count on our distributors to provide us with the same fresh ingredients during the offseason. Although we do save a small percentage of costs, it is more gratifying for us to know that we can provide our customers with fresh ingredients that we grow ourselves.
We make our dough fresh every day and wanted to offer it to those pizza enthusiasts who like to experiment in the comfort of their own homes. The main instruction we always give our customers is to make sure they have a really good pizza stone and to heat their oven (with the stone inside) to the highest temperature for at least 30 minutes. We give them other options as well, such as making fried dough, stromboli and calzones. We also recommend grilling the dough — a personal favorite of ours. On average, we sell 25-30 dough balls per week.
Offering brick oven pizza for takeout and delivery — we believe it is a combination of the formula of our dough in conjunction with the searing heat of the brick oven stones (which can get up to 800 F). These two factors work together to create a crust crispy enough to withstand pickups and deliveries.
Since winning the 2011 Valley Food Championship Playoffs, it can be up to a two-hour wait on the weekends, which we see as an unbelievable compliment. The increased volume of business has certainly posed the question of whether or not we should expand. As of right now, we take great pride in being the small neighborhood pizza shop that won such a big contest. We feel that expanding beyond our current space may take away from the more personal atmosphere, which our customers have grown to love. What is next for The Pizza Guy? Well, we are certainly enjoying our newfound fame and are currently researching the proper channels to distribute our dough locally.