After spending some time with Tim Dijulio at Piecora’s, contributor Tallulah Anderson says, “It was pretty apparent that there’s more than a touch of the old vibe. Sure, some things have changed, but at its core, Piecora’s is that same magical, slightly abrasive spot we’ve all known and loved for nearly 30 years. And in case you were wondering, the pizza is still beyond legit.”
[Photos: Renata Steiner]
Piecora’s New York Pizza has been a staple in Seattle since 1982. Way before Via Tribunali, Big Mario’s, or even Hot Mama’s, there was a smoky, dive-y, go-fuck-yourself-if-you-don’t-like-it Piecora’s. It’s a little more family-friendly now that many of the shop’s original customers have kids and smoking inside is no longer legal, but nearly 30 years later, what hasn’t changed is the heart (and attitude) of Capitol Hill’s oldest pizza spot.
Tim Dijulio, an old school member of the crew who can say “back in the day” and mean it, is living proof that not that much has changed where it really counts. Dijulio, the day front counter manager at Piecora’s, could easily be mistaken for a New Yorker; in fact he says it’s the most common misconception people have about him. Maybe it’s his straightforward manner or his pure love of New York-style pizza, but the man just exudes that Big Apple vibe. His main passions in life are pizza, quality espresso, and music, which he plays regularly with multiple bands. What impressed us the most was that after 20 years in the industry, Dijulio still truly, honestly and unabashedly loves pizza.
How long have you worked at Piecora’s?
I started at the Piecora’s New York Pizzeria on 55th [along with brother Danny]. I started traveling, playing music, but as a musician I kept getting sucked in to needing a part time job. I got a phone call from Richie [Piecora] one day and he was opening this place [Piecora’s]. He wanted to hire me for something but I didn’t want to cook pizza anymore, but it was front of the house stuff so I went in. I was in school and traveling, doing music still, my life has always been music. I always thought at some point I wouldn’t do it as much but I just do it more and more and more as I get older, and this job has been great for that.
It seems like music is a real passion of yours, do you still play?
I play music four or five nights a week, in like five bands, so it’s definitely still a major part of my life. Currently I’m in Flight to Mars with Mike McCready (who used to work here too, back in the day), Stereo Embers, Halloqueen (a Queen tribute band), and a few others.
So pizza. Has it lost its luster after all these years or are you still pretty into it?
“Yeah, I love it. One of my passions in life is East Coast, New York-style pizza and really amazing coffee! Like what Mike McConnell does at Via Tribunalior a doppio espresso from Stumptown. My two favorite things in the world are amazing espresso and really good New York pie.”
So Tim, what’s your slice?
Long pause. My slice?
(Apparently the idea of choosing a single slice was like asking a parent to choose a favorite child, so we revised the question.)
Okay, give me your top three.
Well one of them is salami, pepperoncini, and roasted red peppers, but I also love the slice here, the Sweet Italian (sausage, fried peppers and garlic). Tomato, basil, and artichoke is good. But now that I think about it, the salami one is my favorite.
What’s a day in the life like at Piecora’s?
During the day we have a skeleton crew so basically I’m the assistant manager but I’m also the only waiter. So I open the restaurant, set up the restaurant, go to the bank to do deposits, I get the change for the whole week (and for the shifts I’m not here), loose change for the drivers, set up the register, and then there’s the stuff I don’t even know. I do all the reservations, or try to do 90% of them, which means I set up the banquet rooms for any evening events (or try to do it the best I can), organize the delivery drivers, because we do lots of pre-orders and catering orders, you know for hospitals and stuff like that. I like to make sure to cooks and drivers are in tune.
We open the restaurant right at 11:30. Lunch service is a new story every day, maybe it’s completely busy, sometimes it’s slow. Some days we have kids from Seattle Academy that just descend on us. Some days it’s nothing and others it’s 50 kids and we do cheese and pepperoni slices. We usually have about four or five to ten pizzas ready for them, and [orders] come in kind-of, slice, slice, slice, so I do that and just try to get them in and out while I’m waiting tables. My Saturdays are great, really fun too, because you get lots of different people. At night we have much more defined roles, often four or five waiters on the busiest nights, with bussers running behind them…
—Tallulah Anderson[this is an excerpt… Read Tallulah Anderson’s full article here.]
From the Seattle Post-Intellegencer:
Danny Piecora cracks himself up, laughs so hard that others can’t help but laugh, too, which in turn fuels his delight until he’s wiping his eyes.
He knows a thing or two about a good time; he seems to always be having one at his pizza joint, a haven of New York attitude on Capitol Hill. It’s got red vinyl booths and deep green walls loaded with posters paying homage to The Big Apple.
It’s a place where punk rockers perform on Saturday and preachers try their hand in the back on Sunday.
“I like to have a place for independent artists to showcase their work,” he said.
In 1979, before the shop opened, Piecora helped lead a community council that did a study to find people’s biggest worries about the neighborhood. Piecora expected crime, halfway houses and drug use to top the list.
Instead, “The No. 1 issue,” Piecora said, laughing and pumping his fist, pointer finger up, “I’ll never forget this… ,” he banged the table a few times, “was a cheap place to eat!”
The unbeatable recipe of cheap, hot food plus an all-are-welcome atmosphere has garnered the pizza parlor a loyal following. In 2002, Piecora bought the entire building near the corner of East Madison and East Pike streets.
Even when times are hard, Piecora says, people can afford a slice of pizza. For his formal interview with the Seattle P-I, he cracked open a can of Guinness and poured himself a glass. He relishes the shop’s clueless and haphazard beginning.
Piecora, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens Village, is the second-oldest of nine children, five of them boys. He and his brothers moved to Seattle in the late 1970s. The neighborhood survey results encouraged them to sell their beloved New York-style pizza.
“It was all on a lark,” said Piecora, 55. “All we knew how to do was eat pizza. We learned everything the hard way.”
The brothers sent the youngest to New York to learn.
“Ma was missing Richie, so we sent Richie back home to Tony’s pizzeria. Tony taught him how to make dough,” he said. Tony’s last name doesn’t come with the recollection.
Richie came back, and they fired up the ovens. “We had no idea what we were doing,” Danny Piecora said, face alight. “We’d burn pizzas, experimenting with cheese.”
After nine months of hilarity, they ran out of money and were forced to sell food. It opened on Good Friday in 1982.
“We used a shoe box and a calculator,” he said. “My brothers were so cheap, we had a big argument about whether to have a telephone — everything was an argument.”
[this is an excerpt from Andrea James’ article in the Seattle Post-Intellegencer. Read the full article here.]