PARK SLOPE – Pizza Secret has finally opened in the former Locanda Peperoncino space at 72 5th Avenue following a false start.
“On April 6 I came here, sat down, and had a feeling that [the restaurant] was already mine,” said Pizza Secret owner Rosario Granieri of the space. “You know when you see a home and you have the feeling, ‘this home is mine.’ I signed the lease on June 1st and in 25 days I remodeled all the restaurant. I brought new soul, new life, new spirit. My soul is inside [the space].”
An existing leak in the shared basement below the restaurant caused the NYC Department of Health to temporarily shutter the 5th Avenue newcomer a week and a half after its debut. “I was sad because [I was] opening my dream and then it’s shut down,” he recalls. “It’s like, ‘What did you do to me?’ I was almost crying.” Granieri hired a plumber to make the necessary repairs and was given the okay to reopen last Friday.
Originally from Naples, Italy, Granieri is a third generation restaurateur. “My grandfather, my father, me and my nephew are pizza-makers,” he told BKLYNER on a bustling Sunday afternoon at the restaurant. Granieri’s parents own Pizzeria Miracoli, one of the oldest pizzerias in Naples, he explained. “Hanging out at the restaurant with my family, I always tried to help. My first pie that I made by myself, I was 5-years-old,” he remembers.
And the young professional didn’t stop there, becoming a fornaio (baker) at 13-years-old, then going to work with Rossopomodoro, a successful chain of Italian restaurants, from ages 14 to 19. “I was a pizzaiolo (pizza-maker) with them in Milano, Sardinia, Rome, Salerno,” he says. “They used to send me around teaching people how to make pizza.”
He then met a restaurateur who wanted to open a business in the United States, so Granieri crossed the Atlantic to launch OroPomodoro in Washington, D.C. In 2009, the young chef set out on his own and opened his own pizzeria, Pacci’s in Silver Springs, Maryland. The success of that eatery led him to launch another business ten months later, Pacci’s Trattoria, where he served fresh pasta dishes created using his grandparents’ recipes. While successful, Granieri said he found it difficult to run two restaurants with his limited English, so when Eataly came calling in 2011 he decided to make another change.
“Eataly contacted me and asked me to come back to Rossopomodoro because they opened a Rossopomodoro inside Eataly,” he explained. “I sold my part [in Pacci’s] and moved to New York because it was always my dream to be in New York…. I was in charge of all pizzaiolos at Eataly in U.S.A.” However, after six years, Granieri was ready to launch his own business again.
“It’s been almost 11 years that I’ve been in the U.S.,” he says. “I’m 30 now and I’m ready to share my love with all the people in Park Slope and Brooklyn.”
“Because I have to spend a lot of time here because this is my new home, I’m going to share everything I’ve learned in my life here,” he says of his new venture, adding, “For me this is not work. It is not a job. It’s me. It’s something I can do easily without getting tired.”
Currently living in Williamsburg, Granieri says he loves Park Slope and welcomes locals to Pizza Secret for a taste of Italy. “Everything is designed by me and my father, all the meatballs ($11), eggplant parmigiana ($11), they’re really old recipes that we [use],” he says, noting there will be a special pasta dish every day. “My plan is to bring Napolitano culture to this neighborhood and to this restaurant especially because I want to feel at home. I want to feel at home and I want people who come here to feel at my home, so when they step inside they are going to feel like they are in Napoli.”
Granieri also plans on hosting pizza-making classes. “I love pizza class because it’s a fun time. You share the technique of pizza, the dough and the history,” he insists. In the future, he plans to also host gnocchi- and pasta-making classes.
Coming soon, Granieri, a music-lover, hopes to bring a violinist and a mandolinist in to serenade diners at their tables to give them the “feeling like [they] are on the Amalfi Coast,” he says. “I’m going to start singing too,” he adds laughing. “Napoletano people love to make noise.”
Granieri’s father, Giovanni, came to New York for three weeks to help his youngest of nine children open his new business. The elder Granieri was busy cooking in the kitchen, serving pizzas, and cleaning tables, while his son spoke to BKLYNER. “My father came just to help me out. He’s leaving next week. He’s 75-years-old,” the younger Granieri says full of praise. “Believe me, I’m full of energy and full of motivation, but with his push, I could build a building by myself. I admire him so much.”
After telling the history of the Margherita pizza—in 1889 a pizzaiolo named Raffaele Esposito created a special pizza for Italy’s Queen Margherita when she visited Naples using red tomatoes, white Buffalo mozzarella, and green basil (the colors of the Italian flag)—Granieri shot up from his seat and went behind the counter to make Pizza Secret’s signature pie using tomatoes and mozzarella imported from Italy and fresh basil (Margherita $14).
The dough, which he lets rise for 48 hours, is placed in the 1,000-fahrenheit wood-fired oven between 75 to 90 seconds where it becomes a light, fluffy crust. The completed pie receives a quick drizzle of olive oil before being served.
“Why I call my restaurant Pizza Secret [is] because the secret is inside your heart,” Granieri explains. “It’s how much love you give to the food and then you feed people. You can eat pizza all over the place, but who’s making [the] pizza? I put my name out there because you know I’m going to be here making your pizza.”
Based on Granieri’s affable personality and delicious pizza, it’s no secret that he loves what he’s doing.
72 5th Avenue (at St. Marks Place), Park Slope
Open seven days | Cash & Credit | Awaiting full liquor license