Meet and Eat: Frederick Twomey, Veloce Pizzeria
"First of all, it's a square pie. It's slightly thicker, hence, it retains heat a bit longer."
Frederick Twomey started with the teeny-tiny Bar Veloce in the East Village and created a mini-empire. With a second Bar Veloce in Chelsea, Veloce Club in Nolita, Bar Carrera in the East Village and in Soho, and Restaurant Veloce in Las Vegas already up and running, Fred brings us his latest offering, Veloce Pizzeria, a tribute to the humble Sicilian pie.
Name: Frederick Twomey
Location: East Village
Occupation: Owner, Veloce Pizzeria
You've recently transformed the space that used to be Solex into Pizzeria Veloce. How did you change the look and feel of the space? Basically, we cut the bar in half to allow for ample tables. We went with the traditional, classic checkered tablecloths as you would find in the old-school New York Italian restaurants. And of course, Veloce PIzzeria is now part of the Veloce brand, so we added the signature wine racks. Also, for a splash of fun, we put up tropical animal wallpaper.
How did you and Sara Jenkins, co-author of Figs and Oranges and Porchetta's owner, hook up and decide to collaborate? I know her from the early days of Bar Veloce. Sara and I have many things in common, especially our love for Italian food and culture. After she opened her fantastic Porchetta around the corner, it only seemed natural that we would collaborate on something together.
Did you have Sicilian pizza in mind when you decided to work together? Yes. At the time, we looked at the current state of pizza in New York City and found it was well-represented in terms of the round pie, however, particularly myself, having grown up in Boston eating the square slice, I was underwhelmed by the state of "Sicilian pie" in New York City.
How does the wine list differ from Bar Veloce and Veloce Club? The focus of the wine list is the southern region of Italy at Veloce Pizzeria. It matches the style of food best.
What are the hallmarks of Sicilian pizza versus other regional varieties? Are you using particular ingredients? First of all, it's a square pie. It's slightly thicker, hence, it retains heat a bit longer. A problem that I often find in round pies, is by the time that I get to the last slice, it's cold. Yet, with the Sicilian pie, this doesn't seem to be the case. It also has the ability to travel better, as many of our customers have noted. This key heat factor should prove to be advantageous when we start doing deliveries. For ingredients, we're adding a hint of potato, which seems to work well for the square pie.
How would you describe the common philosophy and principles behind all of your restaurants that has made them so successful? My mission is to give people a satisfying experience at an affordable price, without compromising the quality of the product. I've always felt that part of your experience of going out is paying your check. And if you leave an establishment feeling like you didn't get your money's worth, it certainly taints the overall experience.
Is there another region you have your eye on or that you'd like to give a shot someday for a future restaurant? At the Bar Veloce in Las Vegas, the menu consists of not only Italian dishes but Asian ones as well. And from this experience, I'm excited about exploring new and interesting possibilities to further expand the Veloce brand in New York City.
Describe your dream New York meal (restaurant, dishes, company?). This will require a bit of time travel. Having lunch at the Four Seasons restaurant (Grill Room), in the late-1950s.
Favorite burger? Donovan's in Queens.
Favorite bagel? Russ & Daughters.
Undiscovered gem? Pylos in the East Village.
What's in your fridge that you'd be embarrassed to tell us about? In my freezer, some frozen black bean burritos.
Food you won't eat? Chicken feet. They really freak me out, although I've been known to eat chicken hearts every so often.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? Sara Jenkins.
What's the best recommendation he/she has given you? Motorino.