David Crocetti lived in Federal Hill for many years and, after opening the first Piaza Fresh earlier this year in Berlin, MD, is excited to bring a second location to the neighborhood. Piaza Fresh will open in Locust Point’s McHenry Row in a 2,100 sq. ft. space that used to part of The Greene Turtle, which recently downsized.
“It is one of the strongest areas in the city and is rapidly growing with all the new apartments and offices under construction,” said Crocetti.
Crocetti grew up in the Italian restaurant business, later worked in finance, and then returned to the food industry. Owning several Sonic drive-ins in the area, Crocetti began studying several fast-casual Italian concepts around the country with an interest in bringing piadas to the area. Crocetti described a piada as an “Italian burrito,” consisting of pearl pasta instead of rice, flat breads for tortillas, and an assortment of Italian ingredients as the filling. Piadas are then finished off on the grill.
Looking to create something with a warmer environment than a chain, Crocetti decided to start his own fast-casual concept, making piadas, 11-inch Neapolitan-style pizzas that cook in a 1,000 degree brick oven in just three minutes, and gourmet salads. Piaza Fresh was then born.
Crocetti told SouthBMore.com the food at Piaza Fresh uses the “100% highest products you can get.” The dough and sauces are homemade, they use premium meats such as Purdue Chicken, the topping are fresh, and Crocetti described the cheeses as “costing nearly double the price of the cheeses many other pizza place use.”
With the salads, pizzas, and piadas costing $8.95, Crocetti described the menu items as high-quality meals that would typically cost $16-$19. “We have to do volume to keep the price down,” he said.
Within 45 days of opening in Berlin, Piaza Fresh was nominated for Best Pizza on the Eastern Shore by Coastal Living and Crocetti said that a minimum of two customers a day tell him it’s the best pizza they’ve ever had.
Piaza Fresh will also be teaming with a local company to brand their own microbrew sodas. They will also sell cannolis and bottles of their signature vinaigrette, and offer a kids menu.
Piaza Fresh will hold approximately 50 people and Crocetti expects to do 40-50% of the business via takeout. Piaza Fresh will be open every day from 11am to 10pm, but will consider later hours in the future. Piaza Fresh plans to hire 40 to 45 people for its launch and is shooting for a July 23rd opening.
When it comes to fast-casual, Chipotle is often looked to as the industry standard and it has served as an inspiration to Crocetti. “I love Chipotle, I think everything they do is fantastic and they inspired me,” said Crocetti. “I created Piaza Fresh to mirror what they do and I found a niche in Italian-influenced fast-casual.”
Crocetti is already working on two more locations and hopes to continue to expand Piaza Fresh in the area.