Even in a city known for pie-slinging royalty, Patsy’s Pizzeria remains a standout.

Once the favorite pizza haunt of Sinatra and DiMaggio, this East Harlem legend has hardly changed while growing its empire through franchising.



The original Patsy’s is shown in the 1940s

Patsy's Pizzeria

 

Even in a city known for pie-slinging royalty and decades-old pizzerias, Patsy’s Pizzeria (thepatsyspizza.com) remains a standout. Started in 1933 by Pasquale “Patsy” Lancieri and his wife, Carmella, as a simple pizzeria and clam bar in New York City’s Italian-dominated East Harlem, the concept immediately took off, thanks to its then-innovative concept of selling slices. The couple bought two adjacent buildings to keep up with demand and attracted a slew of celebs over the decades: Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio and Dean Martin were regulars, while Francis Ford Coppola famously took a young Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro to soak up the Patsy’s atmosphere when gearing up for The Godfather. “We were the first pizzeria to sell by the slice and have always been a hotspot for celebrities,” notes Adem Brija, current owner of Patsy’s. “When people come to New York, this is still their first stop.”

Despite a changing East Harlem in the 1980s, Patsy’s remained a neighborhood tradition.

 

Patsy Lancieri (left) hangs with Patsy’s regular Frank Sinatra (middle).

Indeed, customers—from locals to tourists, construction workers to celebrity chefs, athletes and politicians—still flock to Patsy’s for piping-hot pies from the ’30s-era coal oven. Brija’s father, Frank, took over the business in 1991; Patsy had passed away in the ’70s, and Carmella was ready to retire and leave the increasingly crime-ridden area, so she sold the pizzeria to Frank, who had helped her out in the restaurant. Adem grew up in the business and took over the operations this year, as Frank concentrates on the franchising end. Fourteen Patsy’s locations have mushroomed across New York, while interested investors span the nation. “People worry that when you expand, you lose the authenticity, but no matter what else we do, this place will not change,” Adem promises. “We don’t concern ourselves with what everyone else is doing—we just stay the same.”

With the neighborhood once again on the upswing, floods of fans continue to make the pilgrimage to this bona-fide pizza destination. Adem believes that being organized and having a plan—while remaining flexible—has been key to the family’s success, along with consistency and staying true to what Patsy’s does best. “You have to pick an identity and stick with it. [Some] places try to do too many things now,” Adem says. “If you keep it simple, make a good pizza with fresh toppings, you can have a solid business. We tell our franchisees, follow the blueprint; our name will fill the place, but it’s your job to keep them coming back.” 

 

Edit Module

Tell us what you think at or email.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

PMQ returned to the Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco this year and found exciting new products for the pizza restaurant market.

From healthy teas and kombucha to “00” flour and honey-smoked salmon, our team members share some of their favorite gourmet finds.

What causes speckled pizza dough—and how to solve the problem.

Magnetic dough is a real thing, says Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann, and it’s one of two reasons for discoloration on your dough balls.

To market your pizzeria in challenging times, you have to start putting yourself out there.

Katie Collier, owner of Katie’s Pizza & Pasta in St. Louis, puts her money where her marketing is, and her investment pays big dividends.

The PMQ staff drops in on Imo’s Pizza, Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza and Parizza, France’s most fabulous pizza show

Next stop: The 2017 NRA Show hosts the Innovation of Fast Casual & Pizza Summit in Chicago.

100 easy points: How to give the judges what they want at the World Pizza Championship

A veteran WPC judge explains how points are given for the competition’s most elusive scoring category: preparation at the oven.

Pizzerias can save money—and make better pizza—by outsourcing some menu items to baking professionals.

Switching over to a third-party bakery can help your bottom line while still providing guests with the sweets and breads they crave.

Flavored oils may cost a little more, but they’ll make your menu items pop!

Pizzeria chefs use a drizzle of flavor-infusing oils to jazz up salads, appetizers, dips and, of course, moneymaking signature pizzas.

This “green” UK restaurant turns wonky vegetables into gourmet fare

While a UK restaurant turns “wonky” vegetables into gourmet fare, Domino’s Australia introduces a 20-minute delivery guarantee.


Cup-and-Char Pepperoni, Ricotta and Basil Pie

Looking to kick-start your pizza menu? Start with this artisanal recipe featuring Ezzo Sausage’s Supreme Cup-and-Char pepperoni slices.

Product Spotlight – May 2017

Veggie prep machines, lean and clean turkey, dough mixers and more
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags