For downtown pizza institution Cousin Vinny’s, suburbia is the next frontier
Photo: Cousin Vinny’s Adelaide Street unit manager, Parwiz Azimi
FOR YEARS, AHMAD Bargzay and his staff at Cousin Vinny’s Pizza & Deli would engage in a delicate negotiation with some customers calling in their order. They were folks who regularly walked in to grab lunch at the Richmond Row fixture. But they were calling on the weekend, asking for delivery of their favourite pie.
“From downtown, it took so long to get to certain places,” recalls Bargzay. “I would try to discourage them because it could be an hour from the oven to their house. That’s not good pizza. I tried to avoid doing that.”
Early in January, the restaurant took a big step to solve its single-location conundrum: It opened a second location, on Adelaide Street North, from which it can serve the entire north end of the city. More locations will come at some point, eventually blanketing the city and ensuring anyone can get their Vinny’s delivered in a timely fashion.
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Cousin Vinny’s has been a popular pizza purveyor since 2003. Bargzay has owned it since 2005. He dabbled with a second location in 2008, but it too was downtown and didn’t make much sense.
At 1,300 square feet, the new restaurant is a bit larger than the original, but the vibe is unchanged. Seating is limited; the focus is on pick-up and delivery. There will be a patio when weather permits.
“We kept the same open kitchen concept, so people can see us making their pizza with all fresh ingredients, real cheese and fresh sauce,” he says. “We are making the same pizza we’ve always made, the same quality, and people like that.”
The biggest change is the move into suburbia. On Adelaide, just north of the Home Depot/Sobeys complex, there is loads of free parking. Orders tend to be for entire pizzas, rather than slices, which is the focus of downtown.
“Downtown, before the pandemic, we would sell 200 or 300 slices a day,” Bargzay says. “And then on a Friday or Saturday, we’d sell another 300 at night, to students and others.”
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The second store was in the works pre-pandemic and has helped offset a loss of sales from downtown traffic. “Thanks to Ali Soufan and York Developments, we were able to open as quickly as possible.”
Bargzay owns both locations, but manager Parwiz Azimi owns a small slice of the new restaurant. Christopher Clark