Francesco’s Pizzeria isn’t your mom’s pizza shop — even though owner Frank Schiavone’s mother helps in their kitchen to make homemade meatballs everyday.
Schiavone said that at the restaurant they strive to complement traditional flavors with a twist, with unique toppings from hot honey to fried chicken. Francesco’s opened on Hope Street in October 2020 during the height of the pandemic, replacing The Pizza Gourmet.
“I've been in the restaurant business all of my life practically, since I was 13,” said Schiavone, who grew up in Johnston and long dreamt of starting his own restaurant. “I started as a dishwasher.”
Francesco’s uses a 100-year-old dough recipe which has been passed down through Schiavone’s family for four generations. It calls for 00 Caputo flour, imported from Italy, which Schiavone said is the ”Lamborghini of flour.”
“It certainly makes all the difference, like everything else in the food business,” said Schiavone. “You get what you pay for.”
Francesco’s is named for Schiavone’s great-great-great-uncle who immigrated from Italy to the US in the early 1900s. Italian food has been central to the family for generations, and Schiavone emphasized that he was excited to continue that legacy.
He also described the difficulties of opening a new restaurant during the pandemic, particularly before vaccines were available.
Loans from the Small Business Administration became available to small businesses in Rhode Island with fewer than 20 employees in late February 2021. Francesco’s has fewer than 20 staff members, but had opened too recently to qualify for the loan at the time, Schiavone said.
“You don't see the light at the end of the tunnel until (you’re) further into it,” said Schiavone. “But now that we've climbed up, we seem to be climbing out of the pandemic.”
In May, Schiavone gave away free slices of pizza to any customer who showed proof of vaccination, WPRI reported.
Jordan Feldman ’24 said he hadn’t been to the pizzeria or heard much about it, but would be excited to stop by one day.
“Francesco’s seems like it has a lot of fun and exciting pizzas,” said Feldman. “I’m definitely down to try their pesto pizza.”
The restaurant also serves salads, chicken wings and other meals.
“We pride ourselves in being a scratch kitchen,” Schiavone said.
Schiavone added that he was hopeful students would stop by the shop to try their unique flavors and meet the staff. They strive to play around with new recipe ideas and keep their menu fresh.
“I was brought up so that if you're going to do something, do it,” Schiavone said. “We're not just going to open a pizzeria and just throw a pepperoni pie on there and call it a day.”
Katy Pickens is the managing editor of newsroom and vice president of The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. She previously served as a Metro section editor covering College Hill, Fox Point and the Jewelry District, housing & campus footprint and activism, all while maintaining a passion for knitting tiny hats.