NBC10.com - Dan Stamm
Lorenzo and Sons Pizza was destroyed by a June 2012 fire. The owner says he plans to reopen at the same location in April 2013.
One of Philly’s most famous pizza places will soon be serving up mega slices again.
“We do what we do best,” owner Giuseppe Pulizzi said. “The difference is it’s going to have a modern look.”
The departure of Lorenzo’s from South Street left people with the late-night cravings one less place to go and left a big void in the pizza pantheon of the Delaware Valley.
A sign with a Stallone meets Schwarzenegger message hangs on the damaged exterior that says it all, “We Love Philly, We’ll Be Back.”
But, months after the June 27 blaze, the quick-bite spot, known for its mega slices, late-night hours and no nonsense ordering (toppings on a slice? -- don’t even think about it), remained boarded up.
“I miss their lovely pizza, their good crowds -- everything about ‘em,” said "Big" Craig Eskridge from nearby business Milan Jewelers. “You just miss ‘em, they’re part of South Street.”
Contractors working at the site and nearby businesses say that for months folks unaware of the fire or just curious have been walking up to Lorenzo’s trying to get a peek inside.
Pulizzi told NBC10.com Thursday that inside plenty of work is being done and that within weeks he will be selling pizza again at 305 South Street.
“The difference is it’s going to have a modern look,” Pulizzi said.
But will it have the same tasty slices after faulty wiring caused the fire that destroyed all the old pizza-making equipment inside?
“The myth is that if you change the pizza stones that the pizza’s going to be different…I actually believed it for the longest time until I got rid of my oven… you couldn’t even tell the difference.”
Pulizzi, 39, has no plans on being anything but the best, in his opinion, on South Street.
“We are, we were, we’re going to be again.”
Pulizzi also says patrons can expect him to keep a bit of his “where the customer’s never right” policies that earned Lorenzo’s its detractors but also endeared it to the tough Philly crowd.
“Same attitude, because I was born that way,” Pulizzi said.
“The people who don’t like us are going to come in to see what we’re like, again. And, the people that do love us know who we are and they will come back for what they got before.”
The Lorenzo’s Pizza experience has been a staple to more than a generation of Philadelphians. Pulizzi says the recipe dates back to his father in 1970 and they have been on South Street since 1988. But the pizza is only part of the Lorenzo’s experience as its late hours (until 3 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights), lack of seating and tight lines became part of the allure.
But don’t expect everything to be the same.
“I redesigned the place where we are going to be in the back, no more of that weird wall of mirrors or whatever they were calling it.”
There still won’t be seating and no public restroom.
“People want to grab a slice and walk, that’s what we’re known for, not really to hang out,” Pulizzi said.
The biggest change should be the line. Philly architect Ian Smith, a long-time Lorenzo’s fan himself, says that everyone involved had comfort and safety in mind when they redesigned the interior. No longer will the line loop up into the store and back outside.
“They’re definitely going to notice the difference because you just aren’t going to have that tight line set up,” Smith said.
Philadelphia records show that changes have already been made.
Late last year a permit was completed to repair all the structural damage caused by the blaze. And, Philadelphia License and Inspections tells NBC10.com that the property is in compliance and that another permit was issued that allows for a new storefront, layout and other changes.
Pulizzi will have control over the final touches on logo and branding and he says that a new two-story mural of his father will be out front but that the look and logo inside will be different.
Something else that could be different is the menu. It used to be that Lorenzo’s only made mega pizzas and served slices and sodas. But, Pulizzi says that they could be adding chips, little snacks and possibly even buffalo wings to the menu.
It’s still isn’t clear if asking for toppings on a slice will remain taboo.
The interior of the restaurant still isn’t ready but it’s getting close. Pulizzi says the new ovens should be installed soon and that once they are he will make that first pizza, which he plans to eat himself. After that he will spend a few days working out the kinks serving pizza to family and friends.
So when will the public be able to buy a slice again?
“We are looking to have our soft open probably in the first week of April and after that we will have a re-grand opening.”
The exact date of the re-grand opening is still being sorted out but Pulizzi says he hopes to hold it in either late April or early May. He says he plans on donating half the proceeds that day to food bank Philabundence.
Pulizzi expects many of his staff to return and he says he is also hiring new staff before the normally busy summer.
He says that he might be out at South Street Street Patrick’s Day festivities handing out fliers about the reopening. He also says he is in talks to open up two more location around the area with the same big slices and late-night hours.
That’s right. Lorenzo’s isn’t just coming back, it also might be expanding.
“It’s overwhelming how much people appreciate us,” Pulizzi said. “It’s a good feeling.”