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.
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.