Closing your pizzeria down for just a few days can be a major financial setback. Veteran operators Tom and Carly Cinelli will have to step away from their business, Cinelli’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen in Rochester, New York, for up to six weeks. And they’ve turned to crowdfunding to keep the lights on in the meantime.

After experiencing mysterious symptoms and extreme pain for nearly eight years, Carly was recently diagnosed with acromegaly, a rare hormonal disorder caused by a non-cancerous tumor on her pituitary gland. As Tom explained, acromegaly causes the pituitary gland to release excess growth hormone throughout his wife’s body, which means her bones and organs continue growing. To treat the disorder, Carly will undergo brain surgery next week, Tom told PMQ, forcing the couple—who have two children, ages 8 and 12—to temporarily close down the store for four to six weeks.

That kind of downtime would be devastating for any restaurant. So Tom has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover the restaurant’s rent and bills while the Cinellis are out. “We’re asking for help to pay some of our recurring business expenses, including paying my employees during the closure,” Tom said.

Click here to make a donation to the Cinellis’ GoFundMe campaign.

On the GoFundMe page, Tom described the troubling symptoms Carly has been facing. “Carly has increased four shoe sizes and grew 2.5 inches in height over the last 10 years. Her wedding ring had to be cut off last year during a carpal tunnel surgery, which we now realize was caused by her acromegaly.”

The Cinellis have been a pizza power couple since before they were even married.

As a child, Tom Cinelli learned how to cook from his grandmother, Josephine Cinelli. “She was an excellent cook,” he told PMQ. “She taught me many of the recipes that I use in my restaurant today.”

this photo shows the entire Cinelli family, including their two young children, in an outdoor setting that looks like it's in the American west

Carly and Tom Cinelli pose with their son, Luca, and daughter, Alexis.

At 25, he took a job at Luigi’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen in Holly Hill, Florida, a suburb of Daytona Beach. The owner was getting ready to retire and sell out. “I was very interested, and I was an excellent cook, but I didn’t know how make anything that had to do with pizza.” Luigi himself taught Tom the ropes for three months before selling the pizza shop to him and Carly, who was still Tom’s girlfriend at the time. “We kept the name, Luigi’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen, and modified his menu to include my own Italian entrees and his pizzas,” Tom said. “We had this pizzeria for five years and eventually sold the business to move back to Rochester, New York, to raise a family.”

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In Rochester, the Cinellis opened another restaurant: Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante. “This restaurant was larger, had a beer and wine bar, and had about 70 seats in the dining room,” Tom said. “I basically used my same menu that I had in Florida, but I added some local favorites like greens and beans, Chicken French and Friday fish fries. We did very good business, but when COVID came in 2020, it became difficult to maintain the restaurant with dwindling dining room business, so we made the business decision to move our restaurant to a smaller space down the road. Our lease was coming to an end, so it made sense to us.”

They dubbed the new space Cinelli’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen. “We decided to focus on serving restaurant-quality food that was enjoyed in one’s home,” Tom said. The restaurant only seats six, but the Cinellis have gotten innovative in other ways, operating three virtual restaurants out of the store: Happy Tummy, featuring gluten-free sandwiches and Italian favorites like chicken parm; Cinelli’s Vegan Eats, which is 100% vegan and serves up pizzas and Italian comfort foods, plus sandwiches made with plant-based chicken and burgers; and Cinelli’s House of Stromboli, where customers can create their own strombolis.

this photo shows two whole pizzas in a display case, one featuring spinach and artichokes and the other a cheese pie

Cinelli’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen / Facebook

Although dining space is limited, the restaurant’s kitchen is larger than the one at their previous store. “Because of the larger kitchen, we can produce more food at a higher rate but still keep the quality,” Tom said. “We can also serve more people with less staff than at our full-service restaurant.”

Tom said he and Carly have been running restaurants together since 2009. Carly handles customer relations while Tom runs the kitchen. She’s vital to the business, always quick with a smile for their guests even when she’s in terrible pain. “Everyone that comes into the restaurant has experienced her hospitality,” Tom said.

“My wife has been by my side from day 1,” he added. “I owe my whole business to her. She complements my weaknesses.”

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