Rich Vetrano has been working in pizzerias since he was 14, when he got his first job at a restaurant in Brooklyn. But Nino's Pizzeria, which he plans to open soon in Montville, will be his first time on his own.
"This is everything to me," said Vetrano, who said his wife and four daughters will be helping him run the restaurant. He's signed a 20-year lease on a Route 32 location, formerly the home of Goodfellas Pizza, and hopes to open the pizzeria by mid-July.
Vetrano is the co-owner and manager of Valentino's Restaurant in Ledyard, which he started when he moved from New York 21 years ago. He will bring several recipes from that business over to Nino's, and hopes the restaurant's reputation will follow him to Montville as well.
Vetrano is still finalizing the menu for Nino's, but he plans to include some favorite recipes from Valentino's and try out some new ones. Vetrano said he wants to "start simple and grow from there."
Like Valentino's, Nino's - which is named for Vetrano's great-grandfather - will have New York-style thin crust pizza. And at both restaurants, Vetrano will be selling spinach wheels, or rolled-up dough layered with ricotta, pepperoni, spinach, sausage and mozzarella and served with marinara sauce.
And, as at Valentino's, Vetrano will be using bread delivered from A&M Bronx Baking.
"That's the one thing you miss from New York, good bread," said Vetrano, explaining that "real Italian bread" is hard to find in the Ledyard area. He spotted an A&M truck heading toward Foxwoods one day and arranged to taste their bread. He's been having it shipped to Ledyard ever since.
Vetrano is particularly proud of the fact that the items on his menu are homemade. His sauces are all made from scratch - "nothing at all comes out of a can except the tomatoes," he said. He also offers homemade soups and veal, shrimp or chicken Parmesan made fresh. At Nino's, Vetrano will also be making his own mozzarella for the mozzarella "sticks," which will actually be large triangular wedges.
Vetrano bought the former Goodfellas property because he "didn't want to be the secondary location in town." The restaurant, at 1031 Norwich-New London Turnpike, is in a fairly new shopping center, and Route 32 provides plenty of traffic.
Nino's will be more of a sit-down restaurant than Goodfellas, and Vetrano is bringing in enough solid oak tables to seat 48 people. The space is currently under construction - he plans to move the counter back to provide more space and add a vinyl-based floor that's made to look like wood. A 3-by-5 piece of etched glass will display the restaurant's logo, which has the New York skyline and Brooklyn bridge in the background.
At the counter, five or six pizzas - including stuffed pizzas - will be available by the slice each day, something Vetrano said no one else in Montville does.
Vetrano sold two pizzerias he owned in Westerly to open Nino's, and said he has put his "whole heart and soul" into the place.
"I'm going to build a really nice restaurant here," he said.