Famous pizza chef opens restaurant in Sunnyside

By Bill Parry

A legendary pizzaiolo, a master Neopolitan and Roma style-pizza chef, has opened a new outpost in Sunnyside and the neighborhood has turned out in droves.

Salvatore Olivella, and his business partner, Simone Appolonio, opened Nonna Gina Brick Oven Pizza at 43-24 Greenpoint Ave. two weeks ago and it’s been such a success they’re already adding more staff to handle the demand.

“We started with two employees and we’re already up to 11 and I’m looking for more delivery people,” Olivella said. “This place was a pizzaria before so I only needed to put in $20,000 to upgrade. I’ve already got my investment back!”

Olivella was born into the family business in Naples, Italy where four generations mastered the art of thin crust, stone oven pizza. He made his first at age 11 and never stopped.

Olivella made his mark in the New York pizza world at Union Square’s Pizza by the Pound and 180 in Little Italy. His reputation as a master pizza maker, a pizzaiolo, grew nationwide.

In 2007, a Texas millionaire grew so tired of travelling to New York just to satisfy his craving for good pizza, he opened his own restaurant in Dallas and brought Olivella to train the staff. Then he named it Olivella’s.

Appolonio, a native of Brescia, Italy, owns restaurants from Britain to Australia. When the two began looking for the next “hot” neighborhood they decided to head to Queens.

“I had friends living in Sunnyside who told us about a vacant place on Greenpoint Avenue, and old Singa’s Famous,” Olivella said. “They told us Sunnyside is the new Manhattan. In Queens, who would have thought?”

His “metro” style 18-inch elongated pies come with a variety of toppings from truffle and cheese to prosciutto.

“It’s the mother of pizzas based on my grandmother’s recipe,” Olivella said.

Nonna Gina also features personal sized pizzas as well as pasta dishes and salads.

They are awaiting a liquor license that will allow them to serve wine and beer.

“So far it’s going great, it’s been busy all of the time and we’re starting to get in the groove,” Olivella said. “We’re already getting return customers. We’re like, forget Manhattan!”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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