After a devastating fire ravaged Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza in Elizabeth, New Jersey, earlier this year, owner Al Santillo has a powerful ally in the rebuilding process: influencer Dave Portnoy, famous for his One Bite Reviews on the Barstool Sports website and social media channels.

Portnoy has pledged that the profits from his second annual One Bite Pizza Fest in New York City will go to Santillo. The festival will feature 35 pizzerias, mostly from New York, although restaurateurs from other cities and states—including Fredi the Pizzaman in ?? Michigan—will also take part.

In a social media video last week, Portnoy announced that this year’s festival will double as a fundraiser for Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza. “Every penny I make is going to Al Santillo,” Portnoy, an avowed fan of the restaurant, said. “I called (Santillo) and (said), ‘Whatever you need—money you name it—I’ve got you. You just let me know when you’re ready, and I’ll be there to support it and make sure we get your place back up. We need Santillo’s.’”

In the video, Portnoy described the One Bite Pizza Fest as “the best pizza fest [and] best food festival ever.” He called it “the pizza fest they said I couldn’t pull off,” adding, “We did it minus the monsoon.” A tropical storm hit New York on the day the inaugural festival took place in 2023.

“I’m not making any money,” Portnoy told his followers. “Every cent…that goes to me, it’s going right to Al. We’re gonna rebuild Santillo’s, get ‘em going. This is for Al, this is for the pizza community, this is for local business.”

Santillo’s sustained extensive damage in the fire that broke out on a Saturday morning in early January, forcing the restaurant to close temporarily. Santillo was getting ready to open that morning when he smelled smoke and spotted flames in the ceiling above his 100-year-old oven.

“It’s a big mess in there,” Santillo told at the time. “You can’t recognize anything because all the stuff is melted or covered in black stuff, and there is, like, two inches of water—they pumped so much water in there. The most extensive damage is the room where I make the pizza.”

Portnoy reviewed Santillo’s in 2019 and gave the pizza a high rating of 8.3. Portnoy was also delighted that Santillo charged him full price for the pies. “Everybody who knows me, they’re, like, ‘No, no charge.’ This guy, 35 bucks for two pies. Straight, I love it…I love the guy.”

Portnoy urged his camera crew to go back into the pizzeria to interview Santillo himself. “This guy is the real deal. If I was just voting on him, I’d give it, like, a 9.9. Like, I love the guy.”

Santillo’s grandfather started the restaurant in 1918, and his father started working there in 1957. “I’ve been working here since I was old enough to stand up,” Al Santillo told Portnoy in the subsequent on-camera interview. I grew up in this house, and I’m still living here. I’m 62.” He added that, “I built the business around my life.”


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