Chandler man turns Gilbert pizzeria into a hot spot - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler man turns Gilbert pizzeria into a hot spot

August 6th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Chandler man turns Gilbert pizzeria into a hot spot

By Srianthi Perera


Chandler resident Vic Buono is turning his Gilbert pizzeria into a new community meeting spot.

Nicantoni’s Pizza, Pub & Patio, located on JD’s Homestead, 323 S. Gilbert Road, offers a moderately sized restaurant and bar, somewhat off the beaten path, for a casual rendezvous.

In the back, a walled-off patio offers an intimate gathering place for about 50 people.

Buono, who’s known in the East Valley for his New York-style pizza, offers the patio for any group at no extra cost, provided food is purchased, making it an ideal venue for anyone planning a party on a budget.

“We’ve had one wedding ceremony and three receptions, and a few are scheduled,” said Buono, who views it as a niche service for his business.

“Once people see that it’s kind of quiet, it’s private and they don’t have to share with anybody, it’s great,” he added.

Car clubs, school events, classes, author launches, charity fundraisers, celebrations and many other types of gatherings have all found a welcoming home in the restaurant. Buono likes swapping stories and relishes the interaction with diverse people young and old.

He also makes offers that go beyond the usual happy hour rates, including discounts to Town of Gilbert and Gilbert Public Schools employees, both offices of which are located nearby.

To add to the atmosphere, Nicantoni’s offers live music on Fridays and Saturdays; Buono selects from a list of about 15 local singles, duo acts and a few bands to perform each week.

He’s only just pulling together the live music.

“We’re not known as a musical venue yet,” he said.

But pizza is the mainstay of Nicantoni’s. It’s the product that Buono learned working long hours at pizzerias in New York a few decades ago. Ask him for a recommendation and Buono, who personally prefers to munch on cheese pizza, will concoct something original from the list of ingredients available.

He’s very much at home with the flour and the cheese, but he employs a professional chef, Jeremiah Miranda, with whom to brainstorm and create a seasonal palette of Italian specialties.

Miranda is drawing on 25 years of experience on the East Coast, especially in his native Massachusetts, to design the menu. Hence, something fishy is on the menu at any time.

Currently, besides pizza, there’s pasta, meatloaf, lasagna, fish and chips, eggplant a la Pisa and a grilled cheese and prosciutto sandwich, among others to choose.

Buono hails from a New York family of restaurateurs, but he worked in a machine shop just to get out of the kitchen for a while. He also was interested in art, but he didn’t follow that passion.

He ended up working for his uncle at his restaurant. “It definitely beat sitting behind a desk or in a cave – or machine shop,” he said. “I’ve always been into art, but I guess this is the art that I’m producing now.”

Before opening Nicantoni’s in Gilbert in 2003, Buono first received adulation for his authentic pizza at Buono’s Pizza, in southwest Mesa, for 10 years. At the time, few places in the area offered the large, hand-tossed thin-crust characteristic of the New York-style.

He bought Islands Pizza at a strip mall on McQueen and Warner roads in Gilbert and renamed it Nicantoni’s using a combination of his two kids’ names, son Dominic and daughter Toni. Both children are young adults now and are not involved in the business.

In 2016, Buono moved his restaurant to its current location.

When you drive north on Gilbert Road toward Elliot Road, JD’s Homestead is the large yellow farmhouse building on the east side with the white wraparound porch. Nicantoni’s is the only restaurant in the building.

“We’re kind of new again, but it’s easier because I’ve been around forever,” said Buono, adding that some of his customers don’t yet know of his new spot.

Sometimes, generations of his former patrons find him and come for a meal, and it’s always interesting to meet new patrons, even if they are 3 years old.

“This seemed like a better location, being more closer to downtown. It’s a small place, but it’s more vibrant than the earlier one,” he said.

Because of its proximity to downtown’s restaurant scene, he also gets “a little bit of overflow from downtown when they’re tired of waiting an hour, two hours to eat,” Buono said.

JD’s Homestead has a mix of businesses, such as a children’s boutique, a wine center and a photography studio.

“It’s a good neighborhood, they are pretty supportive,” Buono said. “Not everybody’s a millionaire, but they’ve got money for knickknacks and kids’ boutique and stuff like that and we feed off each other a lot.”

Inside, the décor is interesting, as the walls contain New York-inspired photos and foodie knickknacks. It used to be a restaurant called The Groves, which moved elsewhere, and even previously, another pizza parlor.

The location and the décor are to his liking and Buono doesn’t see another move in the future. “As far as business, it’s a decent little business,” he said, simply. “We just want to be your local place – have some good food and fun.”

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Special to the San Tan Sun News

Owner Vic Buono has been making authentic New York-style pizza at Nicantoni’s for 15 years.