It’s been less than a year since 11-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani burst onto the local scene with Pizza Rock on the corner of Third Street and Ogden Avenue. The place was an overnight success, in no small part due to the chef’s decision to offer 11 different styles of pizza, and his ability to do all of them pretty damn well. But Gemignani’s not content just to have the Valley’s hottest new pizza spot; he’s currently working on three more restaurants: a second Pizza Rock in Green Valley Ranch, a to-go spot called Slice House in the same resort, and a restaurant called Little Tony’s in Palace Station that will introduce a new style of pie to Las Vegans.
“As a lover of pizza, I couldn’t just focus on one style,” says Gemignani, who has six other restaurants in California, including San Francisco and Sacramento. “I celebrate all the styles.”
The chef is also dedicated to variety in his overall restaurant experiences. While each restaurant may borrow elements from one another, they are distinct concepts. For instance, the Las Vegas Pizza Rock offers five varieties of pizza that aren’t available at its Sacramento namesake. So how will the Green Valley Ranch location set itself apart from the Downtown locale, despite having identical menus? First, it will be smaller. But, the chef says, “I think we’re gonna build it better.”
When I ask him to elaborate, he hints of an upgraded version of the Peterbilt semi that houses the DJ booth; the new one will be more integrated into the bar. “It definitely has more play with the customers and a different look.”
“There’s [also] a special table that is based on roulette,” he says. “I’m not gonna say what it is, but it’s a table that people are gonna want to be at. It’s the best seat in the house, actually.”
Over at Palace Station, Gemignani and his crew are working on a completely different concept that combines a build-your-own pasta bar with an exciting entry into the local pizza wars. “Little Tony’s is gonna be pretty special,” the boss promises. “It’s a combination of Tony’s and Capo’s [both in San Francisco]. I’m bringing in a cast-iron skillet pie, where the cheese is pushed to the edge and almost slightly burnt. It’s a new style that we’re incorporating there.”
Actually, it’s not completely new for the team. It’s a style known as The Dillinger, and it took first place in its division at this year’s International Pizza Challenge.
Despite juggling so many the restaurants (and so many pizza styles), Gemignani shows no signs of slowing down. “It’s my whole life,” he says proudly. “I live and eat pizza. If you look at my day-to-day operations in the industry, it’s rare that I get a day off and don’t think about pizza.”
Now that he’s determined to build a mini empire in Las Vegas, we have a lot more pizza to think about as well.