Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rick's on Fire: Chatter with the Chef

Hand-ladled ricotta, fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic and rich olive oil… it’s what Rick’s Wood-Fired calls their “Casablanca,” and patrons simply can’t get enough. 

Nestled in the cultural mecca of Woodstock, New York, Rick’s hip & soulful vibe is a local standout. Their unassuming 1890’s exterior doesn’t give the place justice; one step inside, and you’re instantly transported into the eclectic world of Chef Rick, his spirited passion, and his exquisite pizza pies. 

A perfect blend of old and new, the subtle candlelight, retro décor, and ever-changing music add such life to the space. Picassos line the walls, and Woodstock-themed tunes sing though the speakers. It’s a modern-day chill-out longue…and it’s not to be missed. 

We’re mesmerized with Rick’s Wood-Fired, and couldn’t wait to sit down with Chef Rick himself. He has such a light about him, an obvious fervor that shines through… the mark of a true pizza maker. Below, we thought we’d share some of the highlights from our time with Rick. His words were too fabulous to keep to ourselves. 

1. What separates Rick’s Wood-Fired from other pizzerias? In what way(s) do you stand out?

Well firstly, here in the U.S. I find "pizzeria" often carries the connotation of a being a fast-food establishment...self-serve, walk up to the counter to place your order, available by-the-slice, often pre-made, re-heated, etc., all of which Rick's is not. We are an upscale-looking, full-service, sit down/wait-staffed restaurant, serving wood-fired/brick-oven pizzas, personal-sized, made to order, as in the true tradition of Naples, Italy.

Secondly (most importantly), what separates Rick's is Rick. It is the passion, the love, the care, attention to detail, and great respect for the ingredients (the finest, cost-no-object we can source--including our own house-made mozzarella fresh daily) that I put into each and every pizza I make, that separates Rick's from the vast majority of others.

2. Tell us a little bit about you, Rick. What was your motivation behind opening a pizzeria? 

I spent my entire adult career on the trading floors of the New York commodities markets. Growing up in an Italian family, I have always had an enormous passion for food and cooking. Homemade pizza happened to be one of my particular specialties, from way back before it became a wide-spread, fashionable/trendy thing to do at home. After retiring from trading, I was looking for something else to do, and my brother-in-law Chris came to me with the idea of brick-oven pizza. 

3. We see that many of your menu items have very cool/unique titles. Where does this inspiration come from?

We’re located next to Upstate Films, Woodstock's one and only movie theater, and epicenter of the internationally renowned annual Woodstock Film Festival. We thought it befitting we pay homage to the film industry. It's actually the one task I didn't think I'd be any good at, i.e., coming up with catchy titles, but one day, as if by some form of divine inspiration it all just came to me...just flowed out of me, one after the other. Funny thing...I had the names all picked out so long before we were ready to open our doors that I myself had to keep a menu by my side at first to refer to/remind myself of what ingredients were to go on my own pizza creations!

4. What made you want to bring in the GreenBox and in what way(s) has it changed the pizzeria? How have customers responded?

Eco-minded as I am, I was totally psyched upon first learning of the concept of GreenBox, dating back long before we opened our doors. I was convinced from day one that it was the box we HAD to use for our carry-out pizza. Insofar as our customers are concerned, knowing the mind-set of Woodstock, i.e., its having a disproportionate (thankfully) percentage of eco-conscious population, I was convinced absolutely that GreenBox would be extremely well-received, and indeed it has been. I can't tell you how many of our customers have in fact made it a point to thank us for caring/making this choice!

5. What makes you excited about going to work every morning?

The overwhelmingly positive feedback I receive from our customers on a constant/daily basis. Particularly rewarding is the fact that so much of it is wholly unsolicited...that so many of our wonderful customers graciously volunteer their praises.

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