Mona Lisa Pizzeria & Ristorante has had to raise its prices as food costs keep going up.

Mona Lisa Pizzeria & Ristorante / Facebook

How Soaring Food Costs Are Hurting This NYC Pizzeria Owner

Leonardo Giordano of Mona Lisa Pizzeria said he has seen his costs for hundreds of items rise between 50 and 200 percent in the past year.

  • Lenny Giordano, owner of Mona Lisa Pizzeria on Staten Island, broke down his rising food costs in a recent article for the New York Post.
  • “I can list about 200 items that I am buying for my store every week, and every one of them went up from 50 percent to 200 percent,” Giordano said in a Facebook post.

Related: Leading pizzeria operators say it’s OK to raise your prices and here’s how to do it.

It’s getting harder and harder to find $1 slices in New York City pizzerias these days. As the global supply-chain crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the national labor crisis continue to drive inflation higher, some New York pizzeria operators are worried about keeping up with food costs, according to the New York Post.

“Inflation is affecting every single ingredient, every single item we use,” Oren Halali, co-owner of 2 Bros. Pizza, told the Post. “Flour, cheese, tomatoes, gloves, paper goods, paper plates, napkins—everything. Labor is definitely up as well.”

At one location, 2 Bros., which has seven stores in New York, now touts $1.50 slices on its sidewalk menu board beneath a marquee that advertises $1 pizza, a contradiction the Post termed “a true sign of the times.”

A pair of pepperoni slices from 2 Bros. Pizza

Many veteran pizzeria operators have complained for years that customers can’t expect too much from a $1 slice in terms of quality ingredients. But it’s a price New Yorkers have long expected. Regardless, even pizza restaurants that have eschewed the $1 slice have no choice but to raise their menu prices.

Pizza veteran Leonardo Giordano, owner of Mona Lisa Pizzeria & Ristorante on Staten Island, has raised his price for a cheese slice from $2.25 to $2.75—and that’s probably not enough to maintain profitability. In the Post article, Giordano shared startling examples of how his food costs have skyrocketed in the past year.

Compared to October 2020, the cost of flour rose 50 percent, from 32 cents a pound to 48 cents a pound in October 2021. Garlic prices exploded by 400 percent, up from six cents an ounce to 30 cents. A case of tomatoes now costs $29, compared to $16.50 in October of last year—a 76 percent jump—while pepperoni now costs $5 a pound, a 67 percent increase over the $3-per-pound price a year ago.

Related: 7 ways to cut takeout costs and boost your pizzeria’s profitability

Even pizza boxes have gotten more expensive, up 93 percent—from 30 cents apiece in October 2020 to 58 cents last month, according to Giordano’s breakdown.

“Due to the food cost increase, unfortunately, we are forced to increase our prices to be able to keep our business open and continue to use top-quality products,” Giordano lamented in an October 30 post on Facebook.

“I can list about 200 items that I am buying for my store every week, and every one of them went up from 50 percent to 200 percent,” Giordano added in the post. “[I] hope everyone understands the circumstances we are in.”

In an interview with the Post, Giordano explained, “Our profit margin goes down every day. We’re not trying to scare people away with higher prices. If we raise prices according to rising food costs going up, we’ll soon have no customers walking through the door.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wholesale food prices in September jumped 12.9% over the previous year. It was the biggest 12-month increase in more than 40 years.

Meanwhile, in a late-October report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the Consumer Price Index for “food-away-from-home” (restaurant purchases) in September 2021 was 4.7% higher than September 2020. The USDA also estimated those prices would increase between 3% and 4% in 2022.

Higher food costs have been plaguing pizza restaurant owners for years, of course. In 2017, John Arena, co-owner of Metro Pizza in Las Vegas, urged fellow operators to raise their prices whenever they need to. “We have to factor in our costs,” he told PMQ at the time. “That’s the biggest mistake people in our industry make. They’re looking at the competition and saying, ‘I have to charge what they charge.’ I’m not interested in what the guy down the street is charging. I have to base what I charge on my expenses.”