Chef Anthony Russo, CEO and founder of Russo’s New York Pizzeria and Italian Kitchen, grew up in a traditional Italian home where cooking was done with mostly homegrown ingredients from the backyard garden. By Cindy Charette
Chef Anthony Russo, CEO and founder of Russo’s New York Pizzeria and Italian Kitchen, grew up in a traditional Italian home where cooking was done with mostly homegrown ingredients from the backyard garden. Russo’s parents were first-generation Italian immigrants from Naples and Sicily who came to New Jersey and eventually owned several restaurants. After relocating the family to Galveston, Texas, Russo’s father opened Russo’s Italian Restaurant. This is where young Russo, at the age of 12, began washing dishes and later grew into learning recipes and cooking alongside chefs from Italy, all while observing how to operate a successful restaurant business.
After graduating high school, Russo wanted to venture out on his own with his restaurant knowledge and experience. He opened Russo’s Pizza, starting with only a pizza oven, a dough mixer and two tables that could seat eight customers in his 800-square-foot space. From there, Russo opened Anthony’s Pizzeria in Clear Lake, Texas, before moving to Houston. In this new location, Russo eventually opened Russo’s New York Pizzeria to serve customers who were looking for a true New York-style pizza. When the restaurant took off, Russo decided he wanted to share his success with others, so he started franchising in 1999. Russo keeps food and labor costs low, which puts the brand ahead of competitors who average much higher operating costs. Also, Russo’s New York Pizzeria has grown to 42 franchises, both in the U.S. and internationally, with seven corporate locations.
Russo has shared his traditional family recipes – which have been handed down through the generations – with his award-winning, upscale pizza franchises. Russo also ensures that only the highest quality and freshest ingredients are served under the Russo brand. For instance, ingredients are always fresh and never frozen, nothing is pre-packaged and no food contains GMOs. Additionally, Russo sources vendors who supply each franchise with only the best meats and sausages. Pizza sauce is made fresh each day from Russo’s family recipe, using California-grown tomatoes, and dishes are topped with award-winning mozzarella from a boutique Wisconsin dairy farm that Russo has relied on for 30 years. It comes as no surprise that the brand makes fresh pizza dough, pesto, and marinara sauces every day. Russo traveled directly to Italy to source other key ingredients for his dishes, including Sicilian extra virgin olive oil and pure balsamic vinegar that has been aged for 18 months.
At Russo’s New York Pizzeria, menu options include authentic, classic or premium New York-style pizza with signature sauce options, as well as many traditional and premium toppings. Other popular menu items include a build-your-own pizza, starting with sizes from a single slice up to the 28” Giant Party Pizza. Other menu selections include chef specials, freshly made classic pasta dishes, calzones, sandwiches, soups, salads, and appetizers. Gluten-free and vegan options are also available.
Despite operating as a franchise, each location is unique and custom-built with a New York-style ambiance that will suit the needs of the local community. Russo’s vision for franchise owners is to have a pizzeria that feels like a family-owned, neighborhood restaurant with the backing and support of a successful franchise system. Although each franchisee’s business model can be flexible and shaped based on local demographics, Russo’s 100-year-old recipes, combined with friendly customer service and the freshest ingredients, will always remain constant. For more information, visit nypizzeria.com/franchise.
– Cindy Charette