By day, Matt Gocinski was a day trader. At night, he delivered pizzas in Pittsburgh so that he could buy more volatile stocks the next day, or zero out the bad beats of the previous day. His 90 hour work week was split roughly between the two gigs, though he found himself eating more fingernails than slices.
Then, in May of 2018, Gocinski made pizza his full-time job when he bought local shop Pizza Pronto. Before the transaction was finalized, the seller warned him that it would be a wash in terms of work/life balance.
“He was right,” Gocinski confessed. “The hours haven’t changed. We’re open 100 hours per week, which means I’m working 90, from open ‘till close, pretty much, to keep everything running correctly.”
Gocinski went through with it anyway. He figured he could secure steadier paychecks that would withstand the scrutiny of mortgage lenders, even if it meant lots of stress and limited free time.
What Gocinski didn’t anticipate: A new level of appreciation for the craft of making pizza and the relationships he’d develop with the customers who helped him realize his latent dream.
Pizza never sleeps, but it does foster pals.
Last November, Slice’s “Thankful For Local” contest asked pizza lovers from all across the country to nominate the shops that were near and dear to their hearts. The grand prize: $4,000 for the shop and $400 in pizza for the customer.
Out of thousands of entries from all across the country, Pizza Pronto won, thanks to a particularly thoughtful letter from Carnegie Mellon student Val Haley:
“We are so thankful for Pizza Pronto (and Matt) because the CMU School of Drama orders pizza (and I mean a LOT of pizza) very frequently. Our former pizza shop, the chain Vocellis, left us in the lurch last summer when they couldn’t fulfill an emergency order for us so we found Pizza Pronto through Slice, the only pizza shop open to help us on a Sunday morning.
From that first order, Matt has bent over backwards to accommodate our needs in order to win our business. He added vegan cheese and gluten free crust to his menu at our request to accommodate our dietary needs. He created a fantastic catering menu that includes pastas, salads, sandwiches, desserts and more and asked for our feedback to help perfect the menu that would best suit our needs whether we are feeding 10 people or 80. He occasionally drops off free food for us to sample and his delivery guys are top notch; always helpful, always on time and always able to find our building with ease. They consistently go above and beyond to accommodate all of our requests.
Early in the semester I shared the Pizza Pronto menu with everyone in our department and everyone that has tried their product agrees that it is far superior to any of the chains we have used in the past and everyone is happy to be supporting a local business, especially one that is so willing to help us with anything we might need.
They are an outstanding local business with an excellent product and I feel very fortunate to not only have found them, but to feel like we’ve made friends with Matt and his crew, knowing they will do whatever they can to make our events run smoothly.
Thank you, Pizza Pronto and Slice, for giving us a chance to express our gratitude.”
Gocinski used the $4,000 check to help pay down the shop’s loans, but paid it forward as well. At least once per semester, Gocinski sends pizza – vegan and gluten-free, of course – to Val and her friends at CMU to cater large events.
The extra cash around Thanksgiving also allowed Gocinski to take care of his own.
“With that money from Slice, I was able to give my employees a Christmas bonus that year,” Gocinski said. “It was a reminder that, ultimately, our food is not just feeding people, but also putting smiles on their faces.”
“My staff, Val, and all of our amazing customers made that all possible. I’ll always be thankful for that.”