Anthony Posa, 24, remembers most of his high school teachers telling him he wouldn’t amount to anything. He tries not to dwell on it, but how could he forget? They’re regulars at Ciccio’s, where they congratulate the small business owner on the success they always knew he’d achieve.
Their memory may be fuzzy, but that’s alright by him. His success is the best revenge, served piping hot with a smile. They didn’t spot Anthony’s potential all the way in the back row, but his mom, Toni, recognized her son’s work ethic and real-world smarts. Last year, they took over Ciccio’s together and rescued the Gravesend, Brooklyn institution from the brink of closure. As a family, they kept the Ciccio’s tradition alive with perfect sesame seed-adorned pies.
Toni, a 15-year veteran of a nearby shop on Avenue U, gave her kids a crash course on the pizzeria industry. Thanks to her guidance, there wasn’t much of a learning curve. In a matter of days, Anthony had management and cooking down backwards and forwards, from frontend to backend.
“I didn’t know anything about making pizza or running my own business before this,” Anthony said. “In a few days, I was firing out pies that tasted just like Ciccio’s in its heyday. No experience, but I was the rookie of the year.”
Ditto for Vincent, 21, who took on a similar workload while dealing with verbal noogies from his big brother (“He does a lot,” Anthony said. “He just doesn’t make as many pizzas as me. I think he’s scared of the oven or something.”). Janice, 17, was originally set to serve slices up front. “But she can’t see over the counter,” Mom said of her 4’10” daughter. “So she handles the phone and takes orders.”
Toni, meanwhile, is happy to handle the books while her kids take on more of the hands-on responsibilities. And, of course, Mom is always on speed dial with sound advice, counsel, and pizzeria expertise when problems arise.
The family business has blurred the lines between the family and business portions. The shop is only open six days a week, but the shop talk extends through Sunday at home. There’s constant collaboration, even when they’re not quite clicking.
“All the customers are so happy that Ciccio’s is back,” said Anthony. “I just had some lady come in last week, for the Sophia Loren slice.”
“We’re known for the Sophia slice,” said Toni.
“All the way from the Hampton-,” said Anthony.
“I just had a good idea,” Toni said.
“She wanted it just a little cooked,” said Anthony.
“That’s what I’m saying. That’s what we should do!,” said Toni.
Anthony: We had a guy come from Florida. He comes every six months. He gets like 20 pies. I’m sure I’m gonna see him like next week, he’s due. We prepare them raw, freeze them, and he wants us to ship them to Florida.
Toni: That’s what we should be doing for everybody!
Sometimes, Toni and Anthony mix like oil and water. But, more often than not, it’s oil and vinegar.
“It’s stressful and crazy, but it’s good crazy,” Anthony explained. “That’s how it goes with family businesses, especially families on Avenue U in Gravesend.”
“They get stressed, but mom calms them down,” said Mom, as Anthony nodded his head. “I say, ‘Listen to me, because I’m older than you.’ Usually, they do. It just takes a while.”
As a unit, they’ve cleared every anticipated obstacle and weathered the storm no one saw coming. With contributions from customers, they’ve donated more than 500 pies to nearby hospitals and first responders during the pandemic. What started as a mission to restore the neighborhood favorite to its former glory has turned into something much larger. Their family has grown in all aspects, too. The Ciccio’s employees have only known the Posas for less than a year and they’re practically Toni’s kids, collectively tied for fourth on her list of favorites (Note: We know better than to ask for the ranking of the Top 3.)
The Posas didn’t plan on owning their own pizzeria, but they’re happy with their decision as they make fantastic food together and make their mom proud.
“It makes me so happy to see my kids accomplish so much every day,” Toni said. “My two boys didn’t really know what they wanted to do when they were growing up, and now they’re going to work, working for themselves, and being their own bosses. I see the men they’re becoming. It’s an incredible thing to see.”