In 1978, East Ridge High School student Salvatore 'Soccer Sam' Fantauzzo rented a small storefront at 1985 East Main St in Rochester NY... read more At the age of seventeen, Soccer Sam had years of experience in the food business.
In 1972, Sam's dad had a massive heart attack. Time for Sam to go to work and help out the family. His uncle (Pizano) Fred Mione had just opened the new Fred's meat market at 1978 East Main St. Sam, at the age of twelve, soon went from stock boy to cashier to meat-cutter to weekend manager. Fred's made the best sub sandwich in the area, with fresh bread, fresh cold-cuts and Hellman's mayo, of course.
Sam in Charge
In the summer of 1976, Fred took his family to Italy for six weeks. Sixteen year-old Soccer Sam was toally in charge of the very busy and successful meat market on the east side of town. Sam soon learned bookkeeping, time management skills and found room in the soda stock room for the future pizza/sub department. Sam would work his 12 hour shifts at Fred's 7 days a week and then go to his friend's pizzeria, Cilino's Pizza. Sam would hang out at Cilino's Pizza on Clifford Ave. in Rochester and help his good friends Nino (aka Tony) and Vince Cilino. The Cilino family was one of the first pizza families in Rochester.
Sam soon mastered the art of pizza at night and during the day at Fred's he would volunteer to deliver Fred's famous sausage to all the popular area restaurants and bars. Sam would study their operations and ask a lot of questions on deliveries. Sam would take notes in his little black book.
At the end of summer 1976, Fred and his wife Joan and their daughters Kathy, Jane and Michelle all returned from their family vacation in Italy. Sam was rewarded for doing a great job in Fred's 6-week absence. Sam continued on his mission to convince Uncle Fred to sell pizza at the meat market. The remodeling of the back stock room had begun.
Pizza Test Time
Sam began pricing ovens, mixers, etc. and started testing recipes and asking suppliers about the best products to use, the best equipment as well. Months of planning and study about the industry, but ultimately, Fred decide the pizza business was a "no go." Fred realized that his 9:00 am to 9:00 pm meat market would have to stay open until 11:00 pm or midnight. After years of sacrifice, it wouldn't be fair to his family. No pizza department at Fred'sâ€¦ for now!
Back to School
In September 1977, Sam began his senior year at East Ridge High School. He took as many business related courses available and in their last semester Sam and some friends took Home Economics. Sam convinced his teacher, Ms. Adele Pacquette, to let his group do a report on the pizza business.
The Pizza Project
Sam's group called and visited several pizzerias and reported on how to make products and what products to use and where to purchase them. His group soon received rave reviews on the pizza the made for the classâ€¦ and a great grade to go with them!
Soon after the holidays in 1978, Sam was pulling out of work at Fred's and noticed a "For Rent" sign across the street at the old East Main Shoe Store. Sam couldn't sleep that night, the next day he took one of many 'personal' days off from school and met with the landlord at 1978 East Main Street.
Rented: Coming Soonâ€¦
Betty Schafer was a very nice lady and her family owned the building for years. Sam and Betty negotiated for 5 minutes; "$200.00 per month, 6 months free, and do whatever you want!!" Sam kept this information from his parents and Fred for weeks.
The Name and the Lawyer
The next day, Sam called Vince Cilino from Cilino's Pizza for help. Vince took Sam downtown to meet a lawyer and register the company. Joe Guadagnino was the lawyer and Sam knew his son Joe Jr. from High School. Sam wanted to register Sam's Pizza or Sammy's but both names were taken. Mr Guadagnino suggested Salvatore's. Sam's first reaction was "I don't even know how to spell it!" Then, Sam remembered a great Italian restaurant in Buffalo, NY where his family went to on Mother's Day, Salvatore's. A real high-end, classy place. That's how Sam envisioned his pizzeria. Salvatore's Pizza and Subs was born.
Vince Cilino then took Sam around town looking for used restaurant equipment and they were able to buy all the used equipment on a budget of $2,000. Oven, mixer, pizza unit, sandwich unit, and a slicer. That was it!
Family and friends
The old shoe store was beat. No ceilings, no floors, and all the walls were cracked. Sam was great at testing and eating the food but had no idea how to remodel the site. Uncle Sam Arbore, a "tile man" by trade came in big and volunteered his time, knowledge and tools every night. Sam's good friends Phil Coraggioso, Vincent (Enzo) Vella, Gary DiGabriele and cousin Giacomo Lore all kicked in to help. Sam's dad was very upset that his first-born son and first generation born in the USA was not going to college. But even 'Big Sil' showed up every night to help with the remodeling.
Pay Me Later
Several companies like DeGeorge Ceilings, Aberts Hardware, and Monroe Sales Register all gave Sam terms of "Pay me after you open for business, kid" and that was greatly appreciated. Sam found this real ugly fake brick paneling to cover the cracked walls, Aberts hardware donated the paint: Pea Yellow and Puke Green that someone didn't pick up. The place was ready.
Ready to open
May 1978 and the first Salvatore's Pizza & Subs location was ready to open. Sam's parents wanted him to finish school, and his 40 hour-per-week job at Fred's helped him to pay for the miscellaneous expenses of opening. The goal was to open by June 15, 1978. Some minor but major delays: no natural gas in the building and the oven that Sam and Vince found was gas. Sam soon learned an expensive lesson: running electric pizza ovens.
Open for business!
On July 5th, 1978, finally, Salvatore's Pizza & Subs opens. All of the firemen of Engine 12 next door had gained 20 lbs. each that summer. They helped test and perfect all the recipes with Sam's family and friends. They also donated Sam's first-ever business cards and menus. Sam's original logo was designed by fellow Fred's employee Al Grimaldo.
Family & Friends
Sam's first group of employee's were his girlfriend Linda Calabrese, her sister Diana, Sam's thirteen year-old brother Chuck and Chuck's best friend John Coraggioso. John's brother Phil, Vince (enzo) Vella, his little cousin Lisa Arbore and nine year-old sister Val answered the phones. Aunt Mary Arbore, Grandma Oliveri, Aunt Mary Sampognaro, and Sam's mom volunteered to make the dough and sauce every day. And Aunt Josephine DeLuca would help out.
In 1978, the few pizzerias on the east side of Rochester did not deliver. Salvatore's was the first pizzeria on the east side of Rochester to deliver. A painted blue Monza with the Salvatore's name and phone number was Sam's every day car. Sam was one of the few employees old enough to drive so he usually was the main driver that first year! Lots of speeding tickets.
In 1983 while driving his brand new Chevy Chevette all painted up with Salvatore's all over it, Sam's former girlfriend Linda (now his wife) tells him that they are pregnant! Sam looses control of the car, hitting dozens of innocent mailboxes on Helendale Rd. in his excitement to get home to tell his parents the news. December is the due date.
The first child came almost five years into business when Salvatore Fantauzzo II was born on December 11, 1983. That was the day Sam gave up his part-time job as a pro-wrestler (Dr. Love) and devoted all his efforts into Salvatore's Pizza & Subs.
March 1984 was the first ever National Pizza Show. It was in Orlando, FL and hundreds of new companies were there representing their products. Sam and his good friend and adviser Nino (Tony) Cilino attended, they tested hundreds of new products and toppings never before introduced in the Rochester market. From Pizza Fingers to Mozzarella Sticks, Desserts, Car Signs etc. Nino constantly encouraged Sam to open more locations and grow in the Rochester market.
By the end of March 1984, Sam had introduced Salvatore's Famous Full Menu Delivery (tm) to the Rochester NY area, the first in the country. Thirty years later, those exact products that Sam and Nino found at that Pizza Convention in Florida are still on our AMAZING menu today!