What’s the pizza you crave? You know, when you’re tipsy, or after a long morning of meetings or a week’s worth of Crossfit workouts — the pizza that feeds not just your body, but truly your soul? Though we love fancy pizza, our ‘za cravings come in the form of gooey, cheesy, straight-from-the-deck-oven pies, with no pretension. Essentially, it’s the pizza of our childhood, perhaps with some upgraded ingredients and skill to help turn the flavor dial up to maximum volume.
There are plenty of pizza makers who are on this tip: fuss-free, affordable, craveable pizza, harnessing old-school slice shop vibes with new-school, Instagram-ready pizza nerd culture. One of our favorites is Badamo’s Pizza in Pittsburgh, founded over a decade ago by Anthony Badamo.
From the straightforward, no-nonsense menu, to the caveat on Badamo’s website that says, “Some charring and imperfections result in maximum flavor,” to the lick-the-screen social media photos he posts, we love everything about Badamo’s pizza style! We were able to catch up with Badamo on a weekday afternoon to talk about his journey as an entrepreneur and his place in the pizza landscape.
PA Eats: So, did you always know you wanted to make pizza? How did you get into the game?
Anthony Badamo: I’ve always been making pizza part-time since I was a kid. Some of my first jobs were in pizza shops! Later, I tried out college and that wasn’t for me, so I went into corporate sales in my 20’s. When I turned 27, I just couldn’t do the corporate thing anymore. My dad is self-employed as a salon-owner, and I grew up watching him working around the clock, and always thought maybe I’d have my own little sandwich or pizza shop. So, after I got some money back from an Obama-era program for buying a house, I added some savings and decided to go for it.
How did you find the location for your first pizza shop?
In the neighborhood my dad’s business is in, Mt. Lebanon, there was a pizzeria that had been open since the 1970s. After trying for two years to find a place, I called the owners and made an offer. The neighborhood is based around the kids and the schools, kids walk around and there’s a business district, and I knew if I could do okay for lunch, I’d be able to sustain the business. They took my offer, and I was able to retain some of their equipment, and a buddy and I cleaned the place up. I only had 30 days to open, and basically cleaned for the first 25. During that time, I was also throwing pizza parties out of my house and tweaking my recipes. Translating my recipe to a bigger scale, that took some time — we still work on it every day. The dough is an ever-evolving process based off of the temperature in and outside.
What’s your pizza inspiration?
Pittsburgh pizza has some big names that have been around since the 1950s, but my main inspiration is the landlord who I have now, the old operator of the space I’m in. The fancier route is not my vibe. We just want everyone to be able to eat, we don’t want to box anyone out with pricing or fancy-sounding Italian words. I just want to have the quintessential pizza shop vibe.
Prior to making pizza, I traveled playing music, and spent a lot of time in New York, always looking for a new pizza spot. We don’t do New York-style, per se, though. We do a provolone and whole milk mozzarella blend. Provolone on pizza is a very Pittsburgh thing.
You have a second shop, too, right? Can you tell us how that came about?
I’d been looking for #2 for four or five years. I searched for property in the Bloomfield area, which has continued to get gentrified with prices going up and up. I couldn’t find the right spot. My dad is originally from the North Side, and, actually, finding my second location was a very similar situation as the first. There was an old pizza shop right on this busy corner, and one day in 2017 when I passed by on the way to pick up my grandfather, I noticed newspaper on the windows. I called the owner up and she wasn’t willing to sell, but we reconnected in six months and she sold it to me. We gutted it down to the studs, re-did it from top to bottom. It took about a year, and then we opened in early 2018.
How have things changed for you as your business has grown?
I have about 35 employees between the two locations, and sometimes it’s hard to manage it all. But my pizza guys are unbelievable, and I still cook five days a week. I’m still very present!
Thanks so much to Anthony Badamo for talking pizza with us! Be sure to check out both of the Badamo’s Pizza shops in the Pittsburgh area. Do you know a PA pizza person we should get to know? Let us know at [email protected].
Find Badamo’s Pizza at 656 Washington Rd. in Pittsburgh; phone: (412) 563-1000; and 1106 Federal St. in Pittsburgh; phone: (412) 231-1001.
- Photos: Badamo's Pizza