Fredi Bello: The Richest Man in the World
Fredi the Pizzaman may be one of the “little guys” of the pizza industry, but his integrity and passion make him a large presence in Michigan.
I suspect that, to many who know him, Fredi the Pizzaman, this month’s cover subject, is also Fredi the Everyman, one of the “little guys” of the industry—his lunch-only restaurant has just five tables—who looms tall because of his personal integrity and his passion for his work. In our interview for the cover story (“The Good Life,” page 32), Bello returned to the same themes again and again: authenticity, self-sufficiency, and, above all, family.
He speaks adoringly of his wife, Romina, of his son, Antonio, who has autism, and of his young daughters, Allesandra and Adriana. He long ago walked away from a lucrative but time-consuming delivery operation because he knew that family came first. And get him talking about his father, who passed away a few years ago, and he might just get emotional.
“At 11 years old, I knew what I wanted to do [for a living],” he told me. “I watched the way my dad dressed, the way he worked, the way he shaved. I watched the way he’d deal with employees. I watched him draw up menus. And I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do. He taught me every little nook and cranny when it comes to the pizza business. And he made me so much better. Just watching him was a life lesson.”
Watching Bello in action is also a life lesson. He has built strong regional brand recognition in a little town of 10,000, and he’s done it by making great pizzas and doing good in his community, particularly for local schools that struggle to meet the needs of their students with autism. And, boy, does he work hard. He doesn’t just make all the food at his restaurant—he handles all the social media, represents his restaurant in frequent TV appearances, and singlehandedly runs his Fredi the Pizzaman Foundation as well.
Maybe he gets tired, but he doesn’t complain. Maybe he frets about the bottom line, but he never mentions it. Ask him about food costs and pricing, and he shrugs. “My customers tell me my prices are low, but I don’t want to raise them,” he told me. “I want the place to stay busy. I don’t want people talking about my prices—I want them talking about my food.”
“When I was a little kid,” Bello adds, “my dad used to say if you and your family are healthy and your bills are paid, you’re the richest man in the world. I live by those words every day.”
Another life lesson learned!