Steven Salamone was just finishing up talking with his Pepsi rep when I called.
“Are you having trouble stocking Pepsi, too?” I asked, joking with the wise cracking New Yorker about his trouble keeping dough and just about everything else in stock at his new pizzeria, Salamone’s Pizza.
The 30-seat casual restaurant opened Aug. 23 in Tacoma’s Stadium neighborhood.
“I’m having trouble getting all my supplies,” he quipped right back, with a laugh. “I’m a one-man band. I’ve got to go shopping by myself now.”
Such is life for a restaurant owner starting up a small business met with crushing demand for a food historically tough to find here — a traditional New-York-pizza-by-the-slice shop.
To help meet the high demand for his pizza, he hired a chef, Victor Mitchell. That brings his total employees to seven, which was more than he thought he’d need by now.
“We were completely caught off guard with the responses, and we’re so grateful for it. It just made us hire more people more quickly, which is the happy face there,” said Salamone about the lines out the door since the first hour he opened.
He ran out of dough daily for the first two weeks, to the chagrin of demanding diners. Readers sent comments ranging from cranky to heartfelt.
Tacomans Ginger and Stu Miller were eager for a slice of New York pizza when they popped in one evening and found the restaurant done for the day, but they didn’t leave disappointed.
“The owner had been saving a slice of cheese for his parents who are visiting for the soft opening, and he gave it to us so we would each have a slice. We super-appreciated it,” said Miller.
Salamone remembered the encounter.
“I went on top of the pizza oven and grabbed a box of slices I was saving for my parents, who came out of town from New York, who were here to see me open the shop. I said, ‘Here, you can pick any of your slices.’ They were so grateful for that.”
He said their appreciation was a high note in a week filled with nostalgic moments, notably the encounters with New York transplants who share the Brookyln native’s affinity for New York-style pizza.
This is Salamone’s first restaurant. The avid home chef comes from a Sicilian family that takes its food seriously. Salamone and his wife, Dr. Rebecca Brickman, a partner at Pacific Podiatry Group, have three children and live in Tacoma.
Here’s a first-bite look of Salamone’s Pizza. It’s this paper’s policy to skip criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.
Dining room: Like its Tully’s predecessor, the compact, two-story dining room is built for quick service. Seating for 30.
The protocol: New York slice shop etiquette rules here. Order at the counter. Pick from a few styles of pizza sliced and ready to go on the counter. The shop is simple, like a real New York slice fast-service pizza joint. Slices are served on utilitarian white paper plates, and cans of soda are self serve by the register.
Whole pies: Made-to-order whole pies also can be ordered. Call ahead.
To eat: Get your fold-and-hold maneuver ready. The 18-inch pizzas were sliced into eight broad slices meant to be folded over and jammed into one’s mouth, New York style.
The menu: Cheese ($2.99), pepperoni ($3.45) and white pizza slices ($3.50) available all day. Want more toppings? You can add them and they’ll heat up the slices.
Two cheese slices and a can of soda are $6.35 weekdays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Whole pies start at $18.95 for cheese, $21.95 for white, with toppings $1 to $2 each for the build-your-own option. Serve-yourself cans of soda in the cooler by the register.
New: With demand leveling this week, he’s added new pies to the menu, all themed after New York neighborhoods. The Spanish Harlem has pepperoni, jalapenos and onions. The Chelsea is a white pie with ricotta, black olives, artichokes and pepperoni. The Grammercy is a white pie with ricotta, spinach, artichoke hearts and garlic. The vegetarian Village comes next.
The lowdown: The crust yielded chewy resistance at the center, the slice was sturdy enough to stand up to a fold-and-hold and the crust crackled at first bite. Pies are baked in a typical deck oven.
Red sauce is made from crushed California-grown tomatoes.The white slices come New York style with a smear of ricotta and mozzarella. Pepperoni slices held just enough pepperoni to yield the expected slick of grease.
In a city where it’s tough to find a decent lunch for $6 anymore, I’m a diehard fan of Salamone’s execution, price and concept.
Timing: Lines have been long, true, but even with a line to the door, my dine-in visit was 27 minutes start to finish.
Delivery: Coming soon.
Where: 24 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma
Info: 253-444-2646, salamonespizzeria.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily