(March 27, 2015) Owner David Crocetti is following his own vision in Berlin with a new venture — a pizza shop with a twist. Piaza will celebrate their grand opening for three days, April 1-3, and the first 20 people to arrive on Wednesday will receive a free pizza.
“Fast and causal is the new trend. Piaza is in between. People want better quality then fast food, but want it fast, fresh and not have to leave a tip,” Crocetti said.
His “unique concept” was created last May after traveling the country doing research out West and in the Midwest. He visited restaurants who had similar styles and came to the conclusion he needed to have an “out of the ordinary” shop.
“The pizzas are my own recipe with premium cheeses, meats and fresh toppings, many of which are grilled in our thousand degree brick oven in just over two minutes,” Crocetti said. “You can choose as many toppings as you want and its only $7.95.”
Crocetti currently owns four Sonic restaurants in the Baltimore and Annapolis areas and felt the need to venture into the unknown.
Piaza’s pizza dough is handmade to handle being cooked in a thousand degree flame-fired brick oven. Cook time is a little more than two minutes with at least 40 items to choose to be added to a pizza including basil, roasted garlic, mushrooms, grilled onions, spinach, jalapenos, green peppers and broccoli. A variety of cheese blends and sauces are also available.
There is a limit of two proteins included in the $7.95 price, with each additional costing $1, and includes pepperoni, sausage, Italian meatballs, grilled chicken, salami, smoked ham, bacon and grilled steak.
“The price point was designed for locals with the intention they will eat with us frequently,” Crocetti said.
In addition, gourmet salads with premium cheeses and meats are available and give customers the option to create their own meal.
Their grilled piadas are Piaza’s signature dish, which are Italian flatbreads rolled and stuffed with premium meats, cheeses, sauces or veggies.
The “classic” piada includes meatballs, sausage, classic tomato sauce, mozzarella blends and pearl pasta.
The pearl pasta is “cooked in a nontraditional way with a lot of flavors and seasonings,” Crocetti said.
Even their Coke machine is rife with options offering more than 100,000 flavor combinations including eight different kinds of flavored water.
“Nothing is normal, we do everything a little different, intentionally,” he adds.
The atmosphere in Piaza is rustic, industrial and welcoming with whiskey barrel trash cans and boathouse light fixtures. Their tables are made of reclaimed wood and the wood on the walls is from a barn.
Crocetti had no desire to get into the pizza business until he visited a couple franchises in the fast pizza sector and decided to create his own concept. He combined two ideal products, pizzas and piadas with the addition of gourmet salads.
Although Piaza will not be open for a few more days, the shop already has a strong presence on social media.
“It’s the best type of marketing an establishment like ours can do to drive traffic through awareness,” Crocetti said. “Especially down here, half the year people aren’t around and the people who are will see on Facebook.”
Piaza has been running multiple contests on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram during the last few weeks. They already gave away 100 free pizzas to followers, Crocetti said.
Crocetti is no stranger to Ocean City and has been visiting since he was a kid. In addition, the past four years he’s had a beach house in the resort town.
“I grew up on Thrasher’s fries and Ponzetti’s pizza. Now I take my kids, we get two large baskets of fries and go into Ponzetti’s dining room [now Piezano’s Pizza]. That’s what I did as a kid and now I share the tradition with my own kids.”
Crocetti frequents the Home Depot in Berlin on a regular basis, which is how he noticed a new group of stores were being built in the parking lot. They started construction on what would become Piaza in early December.
“I feel this is a strong area and it pulls people from all over,” he said. “People from Pittsville, Salisbury, Delaware and Ocean Pines frequent the area and it doesn’t rely just on tourism.”
Crocetti is opening another Piaza location in Baltimore this spring and has two more locations in the works if his venture is profitable.
Piaza, located in Berlin near the Walmart and Home Depot, will be open year round, seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting on Wednesday, April 1.
For an entire menu, check out their website at http://www.piazafresh. com/. Follow on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with @piazafresh.
Owner David Crocetti poses with his ready to eat pizza at
Piaza, his new shop in Berlin.