By Frank Festa
More than 40 million Americans will indulge in a slice of pizza on any given day, according to BBC. Despite the staggering number of domestic pizza lovers, the more surprising statistic may be the number of places you could score a savory, non-Sodexo slice at the College as recently as last semester: zero. Thankfully, much has changed since last semester and Piccolo Pronto has now opened in Campus Town to serve the pizza needs of students at the College.
Owner Fami Elabed has risen from humble beginnings to beloved business owner. He began his restaurant career as a dish washer at the age of 12 and eventually launched his first Piccolo Trattoria in 2001 in Newtown, Pa. Success soon followed, and with the help of his wife and co-owner Amali, Fami opened another Piccolo Trattoria Italian restaurant in Pennington, N.J., right down the street from the College.
Piccolo Pronto, which opened its doors on Friday, Jan. 22, is the “sister store” of the Trattoria that so many have come to love. This new venture for the Elabeds, however, is looking to take a different direction from the previous Piccolo restaurants.
“We wanted to create a different concept here in Campus Town,” Fami said. “The experience is more intimate. Here, we let people create their own pizzas. The customer has a chance to be both the artist and chef.”
The restaurant is predicated on the idea of getting customers in and out of the door in a timely manner without sacrificing anything in terms of quality or hospitality. You can choose between nearly 30 options of fully customizable, made-to-order pizzas, salads, sandwiches and pastas.
The variety of Italian-style food offered at the restaurant isn’t the only thing on the minds of the Elabeds. Fami and Amali are not only concerned with serving the College and Ewing communities, but also with giving back to those in need.
“Hearing things like ‘people have no food’ bothers me more than anything,” Fami said.
Amali reciprocated this passion for giving back: “Anybody can do ‘what,’ but it’s ‘why’ you do ‘what’ that matters. Our ‘why’ is giving back.
“That’s why we started the nonprofit Piccolo Family Foundation and our Feed the Knead campaign,” Amali continued. “We collect from all of our Piccolo locations, take a percentage of our proceeds and disperse them throughout the community. Working with places like the Trenton (Area) Soup Kitchen has been so rewarding, plus, giving (the College) the opportunity to work has been great, as well. I love that the kids are excited to be here. It’s high energy.”
Amali may or may not have been speaking specifically about senior accounting major Roberto Guiducci, who is one of the many employees who can be noted for their outgoing, warm disposition.
“It’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t feel like work,” Guiducci said. “I never mind coming in. It’s a fun environment filled with fun people.”
Students on the receiving end of the deal are perhaps even more excited than Guiducci about what’s going on at Piccolo Pronto. Sophomores Nicole Weber and Ryan McElroy from the Career and Community Studies Program at the College shared some laughs over lunch this past Sunday and were eager to sing Piccolo Pronto praises.
“It’s nice to have a pizza place within walking distance because there isn’t much else nearby as far as pizza goes,” Weber said.
McElroy went as far as saying that Piccolo Pronto could persuade prospective students to choose the College.
“I think Piccolo could draw a lot more students to (the College) because people love this kind of food,” McElroy said.
Just walking in and looking around can tell you everything you need to know about the restaurant. From the vibrant atmosphere and the delicious food to the inspirational quotes written on the walls, two things have become clear — that Piccolo Pronto is, in fact, different from the old Piccolo down the road, and yet, this new restaurant is sure to be a favorite for students, faculty and the local community for many years to come.