Reformed con man wants to run NYC's first Michelin-starred slice shop

Andrew Bellucci attends the 2020 Sundance Film Festival
Andrew Bellucci attends the 2020 Sundance Film Festival
Photo: Dia Dipasupil / Staff (Getty Images)

Andrew Bellucci is proof that you can run, but you can’t hide behind a pizza oven. Bellucci was one of NYC’s most promising pizza makers in the ’90s—that is, until the feds put him behind bars for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a law firm. But now, the New York Post reports, Bellucci is back on the pizza scene with his new Astoria slice joint, Bellucci Pizza. And this time, it’s for keeps.

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Bellucci rose to pizza prominence in 1994, when he helped re-open Lombardi’s pizzeria on Spring Street. But a decade before, Bellucci worked as a law firm office manager in the late ’80s, where he forged partners’ signatures and fraudulently billed clients for extra hours, even throwing lavish parties on the company dime. He left the firm and tried to slink off into the shadows; however, firm partners recognized him from the media attention he received while helping open Lombardi’s. Soon after, federal agents dropped by Lombardi’s for lunch, ordered a pie, then arrested Bellucci. “They didn’t pay for it either,” Bellucci told the Post. “They owe me 20 bucks plus interest.”

Bellucci ultimately pled guilty to 54 counts of fraud and served a 13-month sentence. After his release in 1997, Bellucci says he placed himself in a self-imposed “pizza exile.” He spent 16 years driving cabs in NYC before opening restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, experimenting with pop-up pizza restaurants in New York, and even exploring Asian expansion possibilities for the original Joe’s Pizza. Then he was featured in a seven-part docuseries called Untitled Pizza Movie, which premiered at Sundance in 2020. It inspired him to give the New York pizza scene another try.

Now Bellucci serves up classic New York-style slices from his 300-square-foot shop. He also offers specialty pies like the “Sonny Supreme,” topped with two types of pepperoni and local Italian sausage and named after one of Bellucci’s former cellmates. He slings crust that he calls “heavily influenced” by the mighty baguette, topped with 18-month aged pecorino Romano and freshly grated single-origin aranya black pepper. He proofs all dough for at least 48 hours, and the Post reports that he’s been known to close shop if a pie comes out anything less than perfect. “I have only one goal,” he said. “And it’s to become the first slice shop with a Michelin star.” Ah, the unmistakable taste of penitence.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.

DISCUSSION

bigjojobongo
bigjojobongo

What is it with crime and restaurants? This reminds me of something that happened in the little Wisconsin town I grew up in.

First it is important to understand where I was raised, anyone from Chicago was obviously part of the Mafia. It was just a know fact.

So a very nice older gentleman from Chicago settled in my home town to retire. I guess he got bored and opened a carry-out pizza place to help pass the time. It was some one the best pizza anyone in the area had ever had. To add to the allure the owner would basically open when he wanted and close when he was tired. No delivery, pick-up only. When he ran out of dough he was done for the day. Word of this great pizza spread to nearby small towns and eventually all the little papers were writing reviews of what this guy called stuffed pizza.

One day the restaurant closed and never re-opened. Later law enforcement people were all over the place putting up barrier tape and taking pictures.

Turns out the nice old retiree from Chicago was actually some connected guy hiding out. No one would have found him if he hadn’t started making pizza.