CUYAHOGA FALLS — Pizza lovers have a new place to go where New York pies are the house specialty.
Lucci’s Place, at 2457 State Road, has been open since Nov. 27 and according to co-owner Jon Finley, business "has not been bad." Finley and his brother, Peter, and father, William, owns this pizzeria as well as Lucci’s Place in Kent, which they opened four years ago.
Located next to Dominic’s Pub, Lucci’s Place is in what many will remember as the former Mama Rosa’s. For a short time, in between Mama Rosa’s closing and Lucci’s opening, it was an Uzbekistan restaurant.
Finley said he and his brother are planning a grand opening in the spring. "We’re trying to get our feet underneath us and figure out if Cuyahoga Falls even likes us," he said. Lucci’s specialty is New York style pizza, Finley said, which features a thin and crispy crust and large slices.
"We really only do New York style pizza and a couple sides," he said. "We’ve won best in Portage County three years in a row, so it’s really our staple. There are only a couple places around that do New York style pizza." Nearly all of his customers order a large pizza, he said.
Pizzas come in three sizes: 10, 14 and 18 inches. The dough is made fresh daily, and the sauce — choose from red or white — is made from scratch. Prices range from $6 to $12 for cheese only with additional toppings running from $1.25 to $2 each, depending on the size of pizza.
The list of toppings includes pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, homemade meatballs, genoa salami, capicola, anchovy, chicken, pineapple, black olives, green olives, onion, mushroom, green peppers, banana peppers, heirloom tomatoes, roasted garlic, spinach, broccoli, artichoke hearts, feta, fresh homemade mozzarella, sliced provonello, jalapeño peppers and fresh basil.
Customers can also order stromboli, salad, cheese-stuffed soft pretzel bites and bread sticks.
"The crust is thin and crispy and a little chewy, with big slices you can fold," Finley said. "We use fresh ingredients. The dough is homemade. And, the sauce is a lot saltier than sweet. That’s something New York style is known for; it’s more salty than sweet." He said most people get just get pepperoni on their pizza, maybe mushrooms, and a lot get just cheese.
He said he sells a lot of vegetable pizzas, too, including pies topped with spinach, artichoke hearts and garlic roasted in-house. "Generally, in Cuyahoga Falls we’ve been selling a lot of meat pizzas," he said. "We have some special pizzas, and people like them, but I’m telling you, man, people just get pepperoni or sausage, something big they can fold up and be on their way."
Finely said he has specialty toppings on the menu and he can make a pizza that would be considered gourmet, but that’s not really what Lucci’s Place is all about.
"We don’t really have that attitude," he said. "We think the pizza pretty much speaks for itself. We also know it’s not for everybody, so if you don’t like it there’s no hard feelings."
Finley, 43, said he gained experience making pizzas at Guido’s Pizza in Kent, where he worked for 20 years. "The food’s always been good there," he said. After working at Guido’s, Finley took a job as a server hoping to eventually move up to restaurant manager. Around that time his father suggested he and his sons open their own restaurant.
"He had no restaurant experience, but he wanted to try it," he recalled. "Peter and I were like, ‘We only know how to do pizza, so let’s try that.’ And that’s how it came about." Lucci’s Place in Kent will mark its fourth anniversary in June. Finley said his brother is primarily at the Kent store, but they work to have a presence at both locations.
Finley said because the Cuyahoga Falls location has a full kitchen, he could expand his menu to include fried foods like chicken and wings, as well as grilled items like burgers and sandwiches, if there is a demand for more than pizza in the Falls. In Kent, because it’s a college town, pizza is all he needs to sell, Finley said.
"It’s different dynamic here," he said. "There are a lot of families; it’s dead by 8 p.m. In Kent, we’re working ‘til 11. [The Falls] is a working-class community. If they want something different, we’ll try to meet that demand. It’s exciting."
Lucci’s Place is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closed Monday. The phone number is 234-571-0053.
Reporter Steve Wiandt can be reached at 330-541-9420, firstname.lastname@example.org or @SteveWiandt_RPC.