Today we’d like to introduce you to Domenick Montanile.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up as a child in my dad’s Italian restaurant. At a very young age I started working and started at the bottom. I was the dishwasher and since we had a large dining room and delivery drivers, I would mostly get stuck on Friday and Saturday nights doing dishes while the drivers took deliveries. Once I turned 14, I started working at the pizza station. This was a lot more fun! We made everything from scratch so I would show up on Saturday and Sunday mornings and make dough, prepare sauce, grate cheese and sauté all of our vegetables for our pizza toppings. In the meantime, we also had to make pizzas and help at the front pick up counter. It was a lot for one person but time flew by!
I learned a great work ethic from my mom and dad. They would work at the restaurant every day from open to close to make sure the business ran smooth. The best part about working there was that all my Italian aunts were the cooks so I would order some nice dishes when I could take a break. I was able to choose from veal marsala, spaghetti carbonara, shrimp scampi and so many other dishes that were so fantastic. I left there when I was 18 and moved to Tempe, Arizona to enroll at ASU. I attended and earned my business degree in Supply Chain Management.
Venezia’s was started right after I graduated college in May 1998. By July, we were open for business. We moved into a location on Southern and Mill that was previously Paradise Pizza. We ended up purchasing the equipment from the previous owner, and opening a few months later after we remodeled the location. My wife, Jaime, and I had only been married for one month, but we dove right in! It was a constant struggle since we did not have any name recognition.
We originally opened under Peppino’s Pizza, and while in business for three years and owning the AZ State Trademark, we found out a company from California held the National Trademark. Hence, why we are now called Venezia’s Pizzeria. Venezia’s is actually the correct Italian name for the city Venice, which my parents both loved. My mother was from Rome and father from Naples so they met in the middle when naming their restaurant, calling it Venezia’s. When I was faced with choosing a new name for my restaurant, I decided to go with Venezia’s, to pay homage to my parents. The name change happened in 2001, around the same time our first child was born. You can imagine how stressful it was with a newborn, working seven days a week, barely making our mortgage payment. I am not sure how my wife stayed with me!!!
I always say, “You get out what you put in.” This is a simple phrase but so powerful and true!
Has it been a smooth road?
After some thought and realizing that we weren’t quickly succeeding in the pizza business, I decided to look for a full-time job, and landed a gig at Insight Enterprises in Tempe. I would go into the pizza place at 6:30 a.m. to place my food orders at with my vendors, then leave for my day job, and return to the pizza place at night to close down the shop at 10 p.m. It was a very rough time in our lives. As the next few years went by, we started to slowly gain more loyal customers and sales were finally increasing. While I was at Insight, I was able to work on bonus programs for my Venezia’s employees during my lunch break. My goal was to motivate my employees during the times I couldn’t be at the pizza shop because of my full-time job.
Amazingly enough, it started to finally turn around. We provided top quality authentic food for a reasonable price, and after five years of gaining a larger customer base, I was finally making a small profit. I was able to save enough money to open a second location in Chandler and quit Insight in 2003. Our first day at the Chandler location, we actually made more in sales than any single day in the Tempe location’s entire first year. I attribute this success to the fact that many of our Tempe customers worked in Tempe, but lived in Chandler, so we already had recognition with many Chandler residents, which helped us increase sales more quickly. In 2005, I opened a third location in East Mesa. By this time, we were starting to create a name for ourselves throughout the community.
There were many other struggles along the way, and at one point my mom helped make the Marinara sauce at her house, bringing it to the store since we could not afford a sauce kettle for our sauce to cook. As the years went on, we added fryers and a few more ovens to our restaurant which helped grow our business.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Venezia’s New York Style Pizzeria story. Tell us more about the business.
We have a unique concept and are best known for our eight slice specials for dine-in and takeout. All eight deals come with a drink and you can mix and match a slice of pizza, small garden salad and wings for an unbeatable price. These meals are usually served to the customer within five minutes so it’s a great option for customers in a hurry for lunch or dinner.
Another unique Venezia’s menu item is our giant 24” Party Pizza. These Party Pizzas are equal to three large 14” pizzas and only cost the price of two. This pizza is a huge hit for anyone having a big gathering that wants to feed more people for less. We deliver these Party Pizzas to many well-known companies in the Phoenix area for large company events. We also have a Party Pizza Challenge, where you and a partner can attempt to eat an entire Party Pizza in under an hour. Winners receive a Venezia’s t-shirt and their picture on our wall of fame.
While we serve all the classics like pizza, pasta, calzones, and sandwiches, we also have new and innovative menu items like our Zero Crust Pizza Bowls®, as well as award-winning gluten-free menu items.
I am most proud that Venezia’s is able to compensate our management staff and employees above industry standards. Best of all, we also offer great medical plans and even have a 401k company match program up to 4 percent, which is rare for restaurant owners to give as benefits. Venezia’s could not do it without the great passion we have from our staff. You must have a great product to be successful, but also great employees, and we definitely have both.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The pizza industry is ever-changing. I believe you must constantly adapt to changes or you will be left behind. This point is so true when it comes to 3rd party delivery services such as Grubhub and Door Dash. We were skeptical at first, but we were honestly one of the first to jump on board several years ago. We have been able to keep our commission fees down in order to continue to provide these options for customers. We do prefer for customers to order direct since it saves us fees and the customer is able to use our promotions/coupons that we offer on our website, but we must be open to have all channels to serve from.
We are currently developing an app for ordering from your mobile phone. It has been about a year in the works but since we do 8,000 online orders per month this was a must! Our customers will have the ease of ordering from Venezia’s at their fingertips and not have to enter credit card information each time. This new app will be a game changer for us and we are super stoked for this to happen.
- Daily Drink Specials: Mon-$2.50 domestic bottles, Tues-$3.50 craft beers, Wed-$5 Winesday, Thirsty Thurs-$2.50 domestic bottles & $3.50 craft, Sat/Sun-3-4-5 deal: $3 domestic bottles, $4 craft, $5 glasses of wine
- Reverse Happy Hour 8pm-close every day! $2.50 any beer, $5 any wine, $2 cheese or 1-item slices, 20% off regularly priced pizzas
- Mon-kids eat free w/$15 purchase, Tues-$5 Tuesdays ($5 LG cheese w/purchase of LG cheese @ reg price), Fri-$7 Fridays ($7 XL cheese w/purchase of XL cheese @ reg price)
- Slice Specials- 8 Deals Under $9.50 all day, everyday
- Address: Tempe: 27 E Southern Ave., Tempe, Arizona 85282
North Phoenix: 15620 N. Tatum Blvd. Ste. 100, Phoenix, Arizona 85032
North East Mesa: 5057 E. McKellips Rd., Mesa, Arizona 85205
East Mesa: 2721 South Ellsworth Rd #107, Mesa, Arizona 85209
Gilbert: 744 W. Ray Rd. #101, Gilbert, Arizona 85233
- Website: www.venezias.com
- Email: email@example.com