Elbridge residents will soon have a new choice for pizza, as Rinaldo's Pizzeria and Catering is set to open in the village later this month.
Wayne Rinaldo has been working in kitchens since he was 16, he said. In addition to time as a food safety consultant, he's spent most of his career in the food industry, including operating a small barbecue catering business for 13 years.
"Basically, it's just where my heart is," Rinaldo said.
After a career working in other people's restaurants, Wayne and his wife, Brittany Rinaldo, decided it was time to own a restaurant of their own. So when the former Mario's Pizzeria on Route 5 became available, they jumped at the opportunity, Wayne said.
Following some extensive renovations, including replacing multiple pieces of cooking equipment and having the rest professionally steam-cleaned, the pizzeria is set for a grand opening on July 26.
The pizza will be traditional New York style, with common favorites like white garlic, buffalo chicken and chicken bacon ranch also available. Wayne also plans to occasionally offer a special barbecue pizza made using his experience running Raging Boar's BBQ.
Besides pizza, Rinaldo's will offer an array of traditional Italian pasta dishes, which Wayne said are "100% family recipes" with his own twist. Also available will be classic pizzeria menu items like stromboli, calzones and wings.
Having been raised in Utica, Wayne said chicken or sausage riggies will be something of a specialty. The restaurant will also offer mussels marinara, linguini with clam sauce, chicken piccata and more.
On rare occasions, Wayne said, they'll offer more eclectic fare, like andouille sausage, dirty rice and other Cajun dishes for Fat Tuesday in February.
Even before opening, and with no advertising beyond a Facebook page, Brittany said the business has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support. Following a test run of the ovens that saw the Rinaldos bring 41 free pizzas to neighboring businesses and potential customers, numerous people stopped back in to say how good the food was, Wayne said.
Having that kind of support has been heartening, Wayne continued, and he hopes to pay it back by keeping the business focused on the community.
"It's opening a business that supports the community which supports us," he said, adding that he hopes to give back to local soccer and Little League programs he's coached in the past.
"We just hope the community ... " Wayne started to say.
"Will enjoy the pizza," daughter Sophia chimed in.