Chicagoans have been buying Rome’s most innovative pizza by the pound since February, courtesy of Rick Tasman and chef Gabrielle Bonci.
Tasman, most recently Flip Burger CEO, said he learned from a friend that Bonci wanted to explore a stateside outpost. Bonci’s shop, Pizzarium, is renowned in Rome for its pizza's pillowy crust and unconventional toppings.
"I met with Gabrielle. We hit it off, and I started working on a plan," the executive recalled.
The plan, launched two years ago, attracted $2 million from family and friends, including former P.F. Chang’s co-CEO Bert Vivian. Bonci, who didn’t invest, remains a minority partner until "proof of concept" whereupon his stake shrinks as new capital rolls in. Bonci USA has rights to open the 1,400 sq. ft. stores here and internationally (except in Italy and four border countries). The West Loop shop, where workers cut pizza with scissors ("al taglio"), seats 24.
"People in the U.S. are buying more pizza than in [Pizzarium]," Tasman declared, estimating per-person transactions average $20.
Future sites include New York, Philadelphia and Nashville.