The Pizzeria isn’t typical of any mall.
Unlike corporate chains that dominate mall food courts, this place is run by Long Island buddies: brothers Paul and Dan Saccoccio and their close childhood friend Cliff Weinstein.
“We met on the soccer fields 30 years ago,” said Weinstein on his relationship with his buddy Paul. “We became teammates, and soon later became best friends.”
They all wound up on different career paths.
Both Weinstein and Dan went into finance. Paul, along with his family, runs the highly-popular Gino’s Pizzeria of Ronkonkoma.
All the while, the three always knew they wanted to start a venture together.
Then Paul, earlier this year, was approached by Simon Properties to take a look at space at its Smith Haven Mall.
This was their chance.
Weinstein and Paul started brainstorming ideas — but first, they pulled Dan out of his job 9-to-5 job to join on this project.
“We wanted to do something that differentiates ourselves from Gino’s,” said Paul.
At The Pizzeria, which opened in July, there’s a smaller footprint than the larger, sister eatery Gino’s.
This gives the trio a chance to be more experimental, making new dishes like buffalo garlic knots, or their new fan-favorite vodka margarita slice.
“We are not trying to be better than Gino’s; it’s not the point,” said Paul, who lives in Holtsville. “This is a scaled-down menu where we are making sure the slices, the pies are as good as they can be.”
And the group says it’s been a hit so far.
“We are starting to get people outside of the mall coming in to just order pizza,” said Weinstein.
“We had a few people walk back into the mall from their car just to tell us they loved our pizza,” added Paul. “To me, that’s the greatest compliment for what we are doing here.”
It’s about fun too.
That’s why they started the Knot Paying game.
Adjacent to the pizza oven, there’s a mini basketball hoop suctioned to the wall.
After customers place their order, they get one shot with a garlic knot to score on the hoop. If you make it, your entire meal is free. And yes, bank shots do count.
As GreaterSmithtown was interviewing the owners, a Smith Haven Mall employee and a regular at the pizza shop walked by.
Paul told a reporter to “Watch this,” as he passed a knot to the patron. He stepped back, squared up to the hoop, launched the doughy treat into the air, it bounced along the rim and trickled into the net.
“That’s the sixth time he did it this week. He’s killing us,” Paul said with a laugh.
There’s also the Macho Man Randy video series they have going on too. Watch the video below.
Having this approach to a pizzeria brings Paul and Dan back to when they grew up cooking at home in their kitchen.
“We can do whatever we want, see what works, see what doesn’t,” said Paul. “It’s all new again and fun.”
“We don’t want to be a chain or a franchise, but be a great old-school style slice shop in towns across Long Island,” said Weinstein.
Scroll down for photos.