Tony Saccos Coal Oven Pizza | Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza | Fresh Ingredients Daily
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Gulf Shore Business June 2009

13 Jun, 2009 - Gulf Shore Business June 2009

Good Times Roll .. Local businesses that make things happen.

It’s difficult to avoid the overabundance of bad news, which in turn makes us all feel bad. It’s as though we can’t catch a break. So when we see that something positive is happening—a slight gain in the Dow or an uptick in consumer confidence—it can lift our spirits, at least until the next wave of mass-communicated negativity gets to us.

This month, Gulfshore Business presents a healthy dose of good news, with uplifting accounts of companies, individuals and charitable endeavors, and how they’re succeeding in challenging times. We hope their stories will provide you a respite as well as helpful information.

Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza

Location: Coconut Point, Estero
Founded: Summer 2008
Number of employees: 30
Owners: Chuck Senatore, George Kurajian and Tony Sacco

Some of Chuck Senatore’s acquaintances politely questioned his sanity when he announced plans to open a pizzeria last year in Southwest Florida. They pointed to the sluggish economy and the high failure rate of restaurants as reasons why Senatore should rethink his decision. But he had faith in his idea: using anthracite coal-fueled ovens to cook the pies, just like the original New York City pizzerias did in the early 1900s. And it didn’t matter that the engineer and entrepreneur had no restaurant experience.

His partners, George Kurajian and Tony Sacco, whom he met through a mutual friend, did have the requisite backgrounds; Kurajian had been in restaurant equipment and design, and Sacco had experience at pizzerias (not to mention a great name to lend the new business). Plus, “I am Italian and have food in my blood,” Senatore says. The trio found a space at the mall and began building it out. By July of last year, Tony Sacco’s and its 1,000-degree oven were up and running. The menu also includes salads and sandwiches. The pizza, though, is a source of pride.

The good news: The restaurant was an immediate hit, drawing crowds in large part through word of mouth. Senatore says the first year’s sales goal is $1 million, and by early April the store was at 90 percent with more than two months to go. Furthermore, Senatore and his partners will franchise three restaurants—one in Michigan and two near Indianapolis—and “we haven’t advertised for franchising,” Senatore says.

How it works: Senatore gives most of the credit to the food and the way it’s cooked. The ingredients are prepared on site daily, the dough is made with filtered water, and the sauce is created from fresh, hand-chopped Roma tomatoes. The oven’s blistering radiant heat ensures that the pizzas’ ingredients aren’t overcooked. It takes place in about four minutes. But the success of the business also is attributed to a solid staff and the owners’ acumen and positive disposition. “Don’t listen to the negative. When we were getting going, people were saying, ‘You’re crazy; running a restaurant is so tough,’” Senatore says. “Tell me what business isn’t tough. You have to think a little bit out of the box.”

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