Pizza Pie Amore: Alison & Francesco Crovetti of Rione Pizza, Philadelphia, Part 1
How do you start a high-friction business, work together, and keep your day job? Alison & Francesco’s Rione is a popular Roman-style pizzeria in Philadelphia. They enjoy the logistical headaches together, have done some very effective old-school marketing as well as digital, one works in the business full time, and the other continues an important day job—taking off that hat at night and on weekends. They discuss some surprisingly effective and old-school marketing efforts, as well as social media—which has gotten on the radar of writers who’ve helped launch their popularity. And despite the hard work and long hours, they keep the romance alive.
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Honey: 00:01 Wow.
Blaine: 00:02 What?
Honey: 00:03 My glasses are fogged up.
Blaine: 00:05 Well, it's certainly more humid in here than it is out there.
Honey: 00:11 It's pretty humid.
Blaine: 00:14 You don't wanna have a good schvitz?
Honey: 00:16 No. No, not with them ... not just from standing. A standing schvitz.
Blaine: 00:20 Standing schvitz.
Honey: 00:24 No one wants it.
Blaine: 00:26 Welcome to CoupleCo, Working with Your Spouse for Fun and Profit.
Honey: 00:29 It's business, and it's personal.
Blaine: 00:31 I'm Blaine Parker,
Honey: 00:32 ... which makes me Honey Parker,
Blaine: 00:33 ... and as a couple in business together, we are coming to from the Couple Coach, our compact Trans-American land yacht.
Honey: 00:39 We are navigating the nation in search of standout couples in business together.
Blaine: 00:42 And we're bringing them to you so you can hear their inspiring stories of crushing it in business without crushing each other.
Honey: 00:48 The show is also brought to you by ... you guessed it ...
Blaine & Honey: 00:51 a couple-owned business.
Honey: 00:52 Yep.
Blaine: 00:53 Hoooo, yeah. "Smokin Mary Smoked Bloody Mary Mix,"
Honey: 00:56 ... made in small batches with no reconstituted tomato-
Blaine: 01:00 None.
Honey: 01:00 ... juice. Only wonderfully fresh, great-smelling, great-tasting tomatoes.
Blaine: 01:08 Great-smelling tomatoes.
Honey: 01:11 Well, you know how when you just pick a fresh tomato and it smells so good?
Blaine: 01:15 Smells ... What does it smell like?
Honey: 01:17 Smells like delicious.
Blaine: 01:18 Smells like, "Smokin Mary Smoked Bloody Mary Mix." Hey, nice tomatoes. Online at smokinmary.com.
Blaine: 01:25 Now, are there any topic, issues, or special interviews you think you need to hear on this show?
Honey: 01:30 If so, we wanna hear from you. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blaine: 01:36 We are interested in any and all input from the couplecos who listen to this show. So email us at email@example.com.
Blaine: 01:44 Now, in this edition of CoupleCo, we are in the city of Brotherly Love to talk with a couple in love about food I love.
Honey: 01:53 We are in Philadelphia, sitting down with Alison and Francesco Croveti, of the Roman-Style Pizzeria Rione.
Blaine: 02:01 We've talked to several couples in the business of wine and spirits, but this is a first for us, a restaurant romance CoupleCo.
Honey: 02:08 I can't believe it took us that long to get to a restaurant-
Blaine: 02:11 Yeah, hard to believe. Huh?
Honey: 02:12 In this episode, I love that we get to talk about the logistical headaches of opening a brick and mortar.
Blaine: 02:17 We're also talking to a couple where one of them works in the business and runs it full-time while the other continues to work a prestigious day job and takes off that hat at night and on weekends.
Honey: 02:27 We're gonna hear about some surprisingly effective and old-school marketing efforts.
Blaine: 02:32 We're also going to hear about how they've used social media effectively and gotten on the radar of writers who've helped launch their popularity.
Honey: 02:39 And, interestingly, despite the hard work and long hours, they're able to keep the romance alive. She's married to an Italian man, after all.
Blaine: 02:46 Here, now, Francesco and Alison Croveti, of Rione Pizza in Philadelphia.
Blaine: 02:54 We are here in the heart of Philadelphia, near Rittenhouse Square. I wanna toast to Francesco and Alison Croveti, who are the owners of ... Rione?
Alison: 03:04 Yes. Rione. Yeah.
Blaine: 03:04 I'm saying it correctly.
Francesco: 03:05 Yeah.
Alison: 03:05 Exactly.
Blaine: 03:06 Rione ... It is the only Roman-style pizzeria ... no, not the only Roman-style pizzeria in Philly?
Alison: 03:12 No.
Blaine: 03:12 It's not.
Alison: 03:13 It's not.
Honey: 03:13 Is it the first?
Alison: 03:13 It's the first.
Blaine: 03:13 It's the first.
Alison: 03:16 It's the first to do Roman-style pizza exclusively.
Blaine: 03:19 Well, here's to the first-
Alison: 03:20 Cent 'anni.
Blaine: 03:20 exclusively Roman-style pizzeria-
Francesco: 03:22 Cent 'anni.
Blaine: 03:22 ... in the City of Brotherly Love, and we're drinking a nice Prosecco, this afternoon because it's early and everybody has things to do after this. So, we're gonna try some pizza. You won't have to hear us chew. We'll cut that part out, but I do need to know.
Honey: 03:36 I think we need to start with the Margarita-
Blaine: 03:38 Well, he said we should start with the potato.
Alison: 03:39 Start with the potato.
Honey: 03:40 Oh, start with the potato?
Blaine: 03:41 That is excellent.
Honey: 03:42 Okay, I realize that nodding while I'm eating doesn't really say anything [crosstalk 00:03:46] to the people listening. So, it's a potato pizza, yet it's really, really light.
Blaine: 03:52 Well, it's one of those things-
Honey: 03:52 The rosemary gives it a whole layer of flavor.
Alison: 03:56 Yep.
Blaine: 03:57 People have rules about their pizza. "It's not gonna have potatoes on it. That's ridiculous." "Well have you tried it?"
Alison: 04:03 Yeah. Well, like I said, this is a really classic Roman-style topping.
Honey: 04:09 What is the cheese on that?
Alison: 04:10 Mozzarella. Yep. It's a thin layer of mozzarella just to give it a bit of extra moisture when it bakes, but really thin.
Blaine: 04:19 I've had pizza that claimed to be Roman-style, and it was nothing like this. I'm guessing this is the real deal.
Honey: 04:23 It's fluffy and crispy.
Alison: 04:24 Yeah, this is Pizza [Italio 00:04:25], or Pizza [Intalia 00:04:27], which is pizza in a tray. So this is a style from ...
Blaine: 04:33 In style, [inaudible 00:04:33].
Alison: 04:34 Yeah. So there's Pizza alla Pala, which is made on sheets and plated on wood. Then, there's Pizza Romana Tonda, which is a really thin, almost cracker, pizza, and it's a round-
Blaine: 04:49 Okay. That's what I've had.
Alison: 04:50 Yeah.
Blaine: 04:50 Is the cracker-style.
Alison: 04:51 So it's super thin.
Blaine: 04:55 After I started reading about this all over the place, ... "Although this is Roman-style pizza. The other stuff isn't." So it's just there are different styles.
Alison: 05:01 Variations of pizza in Rome. Yep.
Blaine: 05:02 This is excellent, by the way.
Honey: 05:04 So, I wanna switch to Margarita next?
Alison: 05:06 Yep, you can try the Margarita. Yeah. The Carbonara is the richest pizza. So I would save that for the end, after you've had a-
Blaine: 05:13 I, purposely, not eat lunch today 'cause I figured there would be pizza in my future.
Francesco: 05:21 You know a little bit about the crust?
Alison: 05:21 We haven't discussed the crust. No.
Honey: 05:21 I said I liked that it was fluffy and crunchy. Well, and it was good.
Blaine: 05:24 Oh yeah. We should actually probably get down to business here 'cause we could eat pizza all day and never get around to it.
Alison: 05:30 Sure thing.
Francesco: 05:31 Like he's talking about, [inaudible 00:05:31].
Blaine: 05:31 And by the way, if you are in Philly, you need to stop by Rione.
Honey: 05:35 Not every CoupleCo we speak to has a physical address. Physical address here is ...
Alison: 05:40 102 South 21st. So we're on 21st between Chestnut and Sansom Streets.
Blaine: 05:45 You hear that, Philadelphians ... or anybody who is prone to follow restaurants around-
Honey: 05:50 Travel for pizza.
Blaine: 05:51 ... the country. Yeah, travel for pizza. If you go to Triple D locations, and things like that, you also need to stop by here.
Honey: 05:58 We've actually gotten on a plane for pizza.
Alison: 06:00 Nice.
Blaine: 06:01 Anyway ...
Honey: 06:01 We're gonna start with a very important question about your business.
Blaine: 06:05 Yes, but this is the single, most important question we ask anybody. How did you two meet? Oh, they looked at each other. There's a long silence.
Francesco: 06:14 We met at a party in Milan. We were both living there at the time we met, exactly nine years ago ... 10? No? Nine years ago.
Alison: 06:25 Exactly nine years ago ... 10.
Francesco: 06:27 Nine. Ali threw a party at her place, and our roommates happened to know each other, and I got invited to the party. Next thing you know, I fell in love with Ali.
Blaine: 06:41 Right then at the party.
Honey: 06:43 So, you were in Milan-
Blaine: 06:43 Was it mutual? Let's hope so. Don't even answer that question.
Alison: 06:46 Yes.
Blaine: 06:46 Okay.
Honey: 06:48 You were in Milan. So, Francesco, you are Italian, so being in Milan is not shocking. Ali, you're American.
Alison: 06:56 Yes.
Honey: 06:56 So, what were you doing in Italy?
Alison: 06:59 I did my masters in Italy. So I did my masters in public management at Bocconi University. It was a year program. So I did about 10 months of intensive courses and then, I did an internship. At that point of my internship, I had met Francesco. So, from Milan, we moved to Rome for six months, where I did an internship at the UN Development Program.
Blaine: 07:27 So, you met at the party. You see here, and you're just done. That's it.
Francesco: 07:32 That was it for me. Yeah. She was the one.
Honey: 07:36 Well, that's easy.
Blaine: 07:37 Wow. That's impressive, especially for an Italian guy because Italy has a reputation for being the land of romance, and for you, it was locked down, right there. That's great.
Francesco: 07:50 Yes.
Alison: 07:50 Yeah. We-
Honey: 07:50 So, was Francesco the first Italian man who thought you were the one?
Alison: 07:54 Yes. Yeah.
Blaine: 07:58 That was loaded.
Francesco: 08:00 I think, definitely, the fact that I spoke English helped.
Alison: 08:05 He has a very interesting background and experiences and approach. We had a lot in common right away, and I think, like you said, part of that was because he did speak English, and we watched "Lost" together and we were able to bond over certain things that provided some normalcy in a situation where I did feel like a outsider in certain ways. I think loving abroad was amazing, but we do wanna always find those pockets of familiarity. I was really attracted to that aspect of him, but then, also the Italian side as well. Then-
Blaine: 08:41 Well, the Italian side. You know.
Alison: 08:43 ... he's very well-traveled and his family is wonderful. So I got really lucky.
Blaine: 08:47 So, Francesco, we know why you were in Italy. You're Italian, but what were you doing at that point? Were you in the restaurant business?
Francesco: 08:55 No, not when I was living in Milan. I started working in the restaurant business once we moved to the United States. I had traveled most of my life. My dad worked for the Italian Department of State. So every three, four years, we'd move a country or a continent.
Blaine: 09:16 So, you've been around.
Francesco: 09:18 All over.
Blaine: 09:18 Yeah. It's almost like being a military kid.
Honey: 09:22 Your accent was curious to me because you don't have this really overt Italian accent. So I was wondering why.
Francesco: 09:29 I either get military kid or [inaudible 00:09:33] brat. Those are usually the two ... Thank you so much.
Blaine: 09:37 Uh-oh. More pizza has just arrived. Sorry to interrupt.
Honey: 09:42 I have to know.
Blaine: 09:44 Okay. Honey's going in for the pizza.
Honey: 09:44 I'm going in for the Carbonara.
Francesco: 09:45 Oh, go ahead. Carbonara-
Blaine: 09:45 Go ahead and tell us why the Carbonara pizza if you want.
Francesco: 09:48 That's a big hit. Funny enough, it wasn't even on the menu that we had designed in our business plan. It resembles, basically, the concept behind the Carbonara pasta, being from Rome. It's a very traditional recipe. So what we did is we decided to put it into a pizza. So it's a layer of mozzarella, pancetta, which is bacon, a creamy glaze, which is like a savory cooked cream, savory cream. Then we finish it off with Pecorino cheese to give it that nice saltiness and little bit of cracked pepper on top.
Honey: 10:23 It's interesting. It's rich, but it's light. I don't feel like I just had Middle Earth. After everything he mentioned, it's still light. I can pick out all the different flavors.
Blaine: 10:34 It's interesting you said that. I was going to say if I had to describe this pizza to somebody, I'd have to say it's a thick crust, but it's not a heavy crust.
Alison: 10:41 Right. Airy and juicy. It's airy. Yeah.
Blaine: 10:41 The layer is thick, but it's ... Yes, big air bubbles in there. It's just ... It's lovely.
Alison: 10:48 Yeah. Thank you.
Blaine: 10:49 I could eat this all day.
Alison: 10:50 You're saying all the buzz words that we market our pizza with. We're glad that you're picking those up.
Blaine: 10:56 Anybody who knows me knows I'm a pizza geek. This is novel for us because we don't get things like this very often.
Honey: 11:03 Yeah. I realize we left our train of conversation, but we were introduced to Francesco and Ali through the Trunks ... Sarah and Jereme Trunk, who ... They were Interview Number-
Blaine: 11:14 Of "Balance Within Integrative Physical Therapy," and is Episodes 24 and 25, in case you are interested in tracking them down.
Honey: 11:22 Just out of the blue. They knew we were traveling, and they said, "Well, we know another couple. If you're ever gonna be in Philadelphia," which of course the bell goes off in my head 'cause I'm from Philadelphia ... They said, "And if you're interested, at all, in pizza" ... and I thought, "Oh, this is ... this is happening."
Honey: 11:40 So we got off-topic of how you guys got together, but it was important.
Blaine: 11:42 It is important.
Honey: 11:44 And Sarah and I were roommates in college. We're very close.
Blaine: 11:48 I don't even know if she told us that ... just that-
Honey: 11:50 No. I've been knowing ... She told us how you guys met.
Blaine: 11:51 ... you were good people and we needed to know you.
Alison: 11:53 Yeah.
Honey: 11:54 Yeah, that's what she said ... good people, need to know them.
Blaine: 11:55 And the bonus of pizza. So, we have now resolved how you met. Fast forward to now, in Philadelphia. What makes you say, "We need to open a Roman-style pizzeria"?
Francesco: 12:09 Ever since moving to the States ... We landed in D.C., where my dad's last post at the embassy was. We lived there for five years, and ever since moving here, I started working in restaurants.
Honey: 12:24 Were you married before you guys moved to the States?
Alison: 12:26 No. We got married about three months ... four months after moving to the States, in a civil ceremony, in Washington, D.C. Surprised our parents and all of our family.
Honey: 12:39 Oh, really.
Blaine: 12:39 And disappointed a few people, probably.
Alison: 12:40 We surprised them with the fact that we wanted to get married, but they were, of course, invited to participate. We said, "We love each other, and we see a future, and we think we need to get married because want Francesco to be able to work and have some gainful employment in the U.S." So we accelerated that process ... got married in a civil ceremony. Then, three years later, we got married in the South of Italy, in the Amalfi Coast. So we did have a proper wedding, as well.
Blaine: 13:13 Yeah, unsurprised. It's a good way to do it.
Honey: 13:15 [inaudible 00:13:15]. That sounds proper.
Francesco: 13:18 Ever since we've been to the States, Ali suggested, as I was interviewing ... I used to work in hotels when I was back in Milan. So, started looking for jobs and, as I was looking for jobs, at the same time, I started working in an Italian restaurant in Georgetown and, kinda, fell in love with the industry. It was a pizzeria. It was a Neapolitan-style pizzeria, wood fire oven.
Blaine: 13:40 Neapolitan pizza is all the rage, right now, in the United States.
Francesco: 13:43 Yep. Yes, it is, or at least it was, I'd like to say ... since Roman pizza, now, is having a pick-up and we're definitely riding the wave of that. I met Antonio, who was a chef there. I offered to come in for free in the morning, learn how to make pizza. He taught me the art of making pizza, and, next thing you know, I started making my way up in the restaurant world by becoming a restaurant manager, a back of the house manager, moving to different restaurants to gain more experience. Next thing, I turned to Ali and said, "I think we could really do this. One day we could open a pizzeria. We could be really successful."
Honey: 14:23 So, Ali, how did that hit you?
Alison: 14:26 It has been something we had talked about in the abstract for a while. So, it wasn't surprising, but it was a little scary. I think, in any couple, there's gotta be a balance between the dreamer and the practical one and I think I'm more the practical one. So, I had a lot more reservations or concern about the risks involved, but he came with a plan and had found a course in Rome that he wanted to do, and had a lot of experience managing, which is good. I think if he had only kitchen experience, and not the managerial side of things, I would be more reluctant. But he has a lot of operational experience, as well. So I supported him and we're here now.
Blaine: 15:14 I think, too ... It might be worth noting. It sounds like ... correct me if I'm wrong ... that your mentor was the real deal. He was a Neapolitan pizzaiolo.
Francesco: 15:24 Correct.
Blaine: 15:24 We're talking like a VPN guy.
Francesco: 15:26 Correct.
Blaine: 15:26 If you don't know pizza in Naples, there are laws about pizza. You wanna just give us a quick idea of how hardcore it is?
Francesco: 15:37 It's very hardcore. I believe that if I was back in Italy, I sure wouldn't have had that opportunity. It's almost like an art. It's kept secret. A lot of people are secret about their recipes, about their mother dough they put into it. They're also very proud of their pizza. Like you mentioned, the VPN is an organization that protects the rules that go behind-
Blaine: 16:05 Tell us what VPN means. I wanna hear it in Italian.
Francesco: 16:07 Vera Pizza Napoletana.
Blaine: 16:09 Oh. Got it. It sounds better coming out of this Italian mouth.
Francesco: 16:13 There's a European commission disciplinary which states exactly the amount of flour, amount of water, type of cheese, tyupe of flour, type of brick oven-
Honey: 16:24 Type of mixer.
Francesco: 16:25 It's gotta be a type of mixer. It's gotta be all really strict and-
Blaine: 16:28 Temperature.
Francesco: 16:29 That's right. The way that the dough is kneaded, for how many hours, and the way it's plated. The way it's stretched-
Blaine: 16:40 Oh, really. Even the way it's plated.
Francesco: 16:41 Yep.
Blaine: 16:41 Wow.
Francesco: 16:42 The amount of tomato sauce that you put on. So they can be very strict. Fine that you mentioned that because, at the pizzeria that I worked at in D.C., I actually helped them obtain the certification. It's just a certificate that they can post right at the beginning. There's an inspector that comes out and makes sure that everything is right.
Honey: 17:02 It's Kosher.
Francesco: 17:03 Then they have to fill-
Blaine: 17:04 It's Kosher.
Francesco: 17:05 It's Kosher. Yeah. They approve you-
Blaine: 17:07 It's short of being blessed by the Vatican ...
Francesco: 17:08 ... give you certification. Then, next thing you know, you're good to go.
Blaine: 17:13 Okay. So you came not only with a plan and with a really solid business sense of this. You also came with a really solid sense of the art of pizza.
Honey: 17:24 So, Ali, did he present you with a business plan?
Alison: 17:30 No, but he then developed a business plan, and I helped him with it. It was a mutual effort in getting certain things together, but he did a lot of legwork in looking for spaces. He did the majority of the research and the work, for sure.
Honey: 17:47 So, I wanna talk about that a little bit. For anybody ... like I said, we're not always talking to a brick and mortar business, which this is. What is that like? That experience of picking a place, getting place? What do you have to do to get your storefront?
Francesco: 18:05 It's the hardest thing that you could, possibly, do. Essentially, if you don't have any experience to prove, if you don't have any business credit. Having good personal credit definitely helps, and it helped us. Not helps business experience definitely didn't, because a lot of landlords ask you for your previous experience other than just the up-front capital that you're gonna be putting into the business. It takes being persistent, always looking around and, sometimes, just being at the right time at the right moment.
Alison: 18:34 Yeah. I would say, to add on to that, Francesco looked at a lot of places. In commercial and retail real estate, it's variable. So when you rent something for a house, you know you're gonna have certain amenities or certain things in the house. Right? You're gonna have a bathroom, and you're gonna have a stove and a fridge, and you're not gonna have to outfit your house. With commercial real estate, you might not have the right zoning that you need for the building. You might not have refrigeration systems or, even, a bathroom. So you might have to outfit all of that out. Some places give you just a vanilla space, which means, basically, an empty room and you can do whatever you want with it, but you have to, then, invest all the construction costs. So it can really vary, and it really-
Blaine: 19:25 It's daunting. Isn't it?
Francesco: 19:25 Yeah.
Alison: 19:27 Yeah, it's very daunting.
Francesco: 19:27 We gotta go through all the L&I. It's obviously the-
Francesco & Ali: 19:31 ... license and inspections.
Francesco: 19:33 ... with the City of Philadelphia. They help, but a lot of it means there's a lot of research so that you're not just showing up without the right paperwork. So I would definitely suggest be prepared. Read all your notes. Go through every single detail that they might give you because a lot of the information is actually given to you jus to make sure that you go through it and you show up with what they need to see.
Blaine: 19:58 I'm curious. I know a little bit about this because I fell into the homemade ice cream business many years ago. It was not a plan. I just started working for somebody and, before I knew it, I owned a part of the business. It's mind-boggling how many inspections and approvals ... I had no idea the Department of Agriculture got involved. I don't know if that happens in your business,
Alison: 20:18 No, thankfully.
Blaine: 20:20 It may depend on the State or it may depend on what you're doing, but yeah, it's overwhelming. This could test a relationship all by itself, for sure.
Alison: 20:29 It's very stressful.
Honey: 20:31 What was that phase of the relationship like?
Alison: 20:34 I will say that we have a really strong support system with our families and friends. Also, Francesco has a really good network of people that he, either, had known, or met, as he was going through his process, that he could lean on for questions and we could talk through things. So, I think that was certainly helpful. But, yeah, we were stressed. It's hard to untangle that when you're at home and sitting in bed and thinking about, "Okay, do I need $50,000 more to get certain equipment or get the construction done?", or whatever.
Blaine: 21:15 All kinds of surprises.
Alison: 21:17 Yeah, exactly.
Honey: 21:19 Ali, were you working a full-time job during all this?
Alison: 21:20 Yes and I still am.
Blaine: 21:24 Well, this actually takes us to an important question. How do you two work together? I think one of the ways you work together is by not working together?
Alison: 21:30 That's part of it, for sure. Yeah. So, I have a full-time, nine to five job ... nine to 5:30 job, technically-
Blaine: 21:39 In case anyone's listening, she's there 'til 5:30.
Alison: 21:45 Exactly. I think that's actually really health. I love what I do. I work for a non-profit called, "Save the Children," and that has been a really healthy and helpful outlet for me to have that separate life outside of Rione, because Rione is, in a lot of ways, both of ours in terms of the financial risk and Francesco is able to bring his work home with me, and I'm able to see his work, more so than he's able to see mine. So, we share that in a lot of ways.
Blaine: 22:16 He may not even know that you really have a job. You could be doing almost anything during the day.
Alison: 22:23 Sure.
Honey: 22:23 She's at the track.
Alison: 22:27 Yeah, well I go back and forth to D.C. quite often and I do get some international trips and-
Honey: 22:33 So, what are you ... I was gonna say, "Day to day," but evening to evening 'cause that's when you have a moment to work at this.
Blaine: 22:40 Yeah. How do you interface as a couple in business together?
Alison: 22:43 I think the division of labor that's been working for us is that I manage the social media, and some of the financials, and the reporting, as well. So I take care of all of the backend accounting, bookkeeping. Then we have an Accountant that does our work for us on taxes and things like that. Then, I manage our social media. Then, I'll come on the weekends to have meetings with our manager, as well. So I think that's worked and, then, just, kinda, helping Francesco troubleshoot any problems. Really, he's the day-to-day operations person, and it's more just being a sounding board for him, in a lot of ways.
Honey: 23:27 It sounded like the big decisions, they were 50/50 ... that that was a even split.
Alison: 23:32 Yeah, usually the big decisions that require any kind of purchase or change of direction, we'll both weigh in on them.
Blaine: 23:42 So, if Francesco comes to you and says, "I need a new Rolex," that may not pass muster.
Alison: 23:47 Yeah. That's not a business expense.
Blaine: 23:50 So, this means, while you're busy doing all the unromantic things-
Alison: 23:53 Yes.
Blaine: 23:54 ... Francesco, you're busy doing all the romantic things, like making pizza. Right?
Francesco: 23:57 Correct.
Blaine: 23:59 It's all just pizza and fun. Right?
Francesco: 24:02 Pizza and fun. Yeah.
Blaine: 24:04 Until it's not.
Francesco: 24:06 Until it's not. We have a great team that helps us in the day-to-day tasks. We believe in investing in people that are committed to our project that believe in Roman-style pizza and, I think looking for the right people has been the key element. Business, after all, is made of people, and it's customers that walk in. So it's really the interaction and the experience that people want to see. So I'm here almost every day. I do get my days off, and I do get some nights off. Operationally, I got my hands in dough, making pizza, in prep, working the front. So, I do like the idea of having my hands on everything, right now until we get to a point where we have to have systems in place where our staff can clearly work them out together.
Honey: 24:56 How big a staff do you have?
Francesco: 24:58 We are five. There's five of us, right now, working.
Alison: 25:01 There's six. Yeah, six.
Francesco: 25:03 Including myself?
Alison: 25:04 Including you. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Francesco: 25:05 There's six, including me.
Blaine: 25:06 Normally, I think we'd probably be asking how does this business effect the kids, but you don't have kids, yet.
Alison: 25:13 Yet.
Honey: 25:15 The clock is ticking.
Alison: 25:17 The clock is ticking. Yes. So we're expecting a little boy in January.
Francesco: 25:22 A little pizzaiolo.
Alison: 25:23 Yeah. So, we'll see. It'll change everything and, hopefully, we'll manage that.
Blaine: 25:32 We know the kid's gonna like pizza.
Alison: 25:33 Manage everything else. Yeah. When we-
Francesco: 25:36 Knock on wood. Yeah.
Alison: 25:38 ... interviewed-
Blaine: 25:43 Here to the kid liking pizza.
Alison: 25:45 Yeah,
Blaine: 25:45 [inaudible 00:25:45] to the kid.
Alison: 25:45 What are the chances-
Blaine: 25:45 To a happy, healthy, Italian-American baby.
Honey: 25:46 Happy, health first. Yes. Every child likes pizza. When we interviewed Wayward Owl Brewing, and their son is probably five now. They said they would not recommend starting a family and a business at the same time ... that just things happen.
Blaine: 26:00 What is the craziest thing that has ever happened at the Rione?
Alison: 26:04 Craziest thing.
Blaine: 26:05 Yeah. I've got a feeling you probably keep things on an eve keel, but you never know.
Alison: 26:12 Yeah. It's been pretty stead, thankfully ... nothing too crazy.
Francesco: 26:19 [inaudible 00:26:19] that crazy Blanca that came in?
Alison: 26:20 Yeah, we've had, I think ... maybe not crazy, but the things that we've had to manage are just the reactions we get and how we respond to them. You put yourself out there and you're suddenly on these sites where you're being reviewed and criticized or praised. I think it's been really wonderful, and that's part of putting yourself out there as a business owner. It certainly tested how Francesco and I manage the stress of the bad reviews or the things that would upset us, and trying to manage those. It's not particularly crazy. It's just a matter of keeping everything in perspective.
Blaine: 27:11 I have read all of the bad reviews, and they are wrong.
Honey: 27:14 You read both of them to me. [crosstalk 00:27:17] You have a ton of fantastic reviews.
Alison: 27:20 Thank you.
Honey: 27:22 That's gotta feel great, but what happens when somebody comes in and they're just wrong? They just say something wrong.
Alison: 27:30 Well, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and not everyone's gonna come in and have the same experience anywhere they go. Right? There's always a context in which they're coming in. Maybe they had a terrible day, or maybe they had a great day, and they came in and we, somehow, set them off to have a bad day.
Blaine: 27:52 You know, it happens to everyone at some point.
Alison: 27:54 Exactly. So it's just a matter of keeping cool and keeping things in perspective.
Blaine: 27:58 It's one of the reasons I no longer want to do a job where I have to work with the public in any way.
Honey: 28:05 Well, we have an ad agency that's still active, and we have a client-
Blaine: 28:12 In retail.
Honey: 28:13 ... in retail. So we read something on social media where somebody got upset because, "Oh, yes. They have home delivery," and he said something about them leaving his stuff in the driveway. They didn't bring it in. Totally not true.
Blaine: 28:27 He says that he actually has photographs of the stuff that was delivered in his home.
Honey: 28:33 The client has this-
Blaine: 28:34 Yeah, our client has photographs of the stuff in his ... and it's like he's-
Honey: 28:39 So, what do you do when somebody's ... I mean, that's ... anyway. Not to belabor that point.
Alison: 28:44 I will say we have wonderful customers that have become friends and that are so supportive, and we do feel part of this community. It's been great having ... Francesco will come home and he'll have books with him, and he'll be just like, "Oh, this guy is professor, and he came in and brought me books."
Honey: 29:06 Philadelphia is very neighborhoody.
Alison: 29:08 Yeah. It's just wonderful.
Honey: 29:10 It's a small town city.
Alison: 29:11 Yeah.
Blaine: 29:11 IF I had to pick a city, right now, to move to, I think Philadelphia would be at the top.
Honey: 29:16 So would my mother ... will be so happy ... [crosstalk 00:29:18]
Alison: 29:17 We love it here.
Blaine: 29:17 There's nowhere to park an RV.
Francesco: 29:17 Did you know that's exactly what Rione translates to, in English ... neighborhood.
Blaine: 29:26 Oh, really?
Francesco: 29:29 Rione ... How many were there, 13?
Blaine: 29:31 13 or 14.
Francesco: 29:32 13 or 14 neighborhoods, or sections of the Old Row. So, [foreign languge 00:29:40] ... just like [crosstalk 00:29:42]-
Blaine: 29:42 I feel like I'm slacking of now already knowing this.
Francesco: 29:47 That's the name that we decided to come up with, other than the fact that it just sounded right and people could actually say it.
Blaine: 29:53 I think it's a great ... Yeah, well, there's that. I think it's actually a really great name. "Neighborhood Pizzeria."
Francesco & Ali: 29:58 Correct.
Alison: 29:58 Yep. Exactly.
Francesco & Ali: 30:00 Yeah, that was the idea.
Honey: 30:01 It's the right feeling. I feel like this is the right town to appreciate that ... not that other towns wouldn't, but I get that this would.
Blaine: 30:08 One of the things that we specialize in at Slow Burn Marketing, which is our business, is branding for the small business owner. So many times, with the CoupleCos, especially, I feel like they got it right, and I love that. You guys did this on your own, I'm guessing. You didn't hire an agency to do it.
Alison: 30:25 No. Yeah, we did everything on our own.
Honey: 30:27 So have you been doing all of your marketing on your own?
Blaine: 30:35 This has been our conversation with Francesco and Alison Croveti, of Rione Pizza in Philadelphia.
Honey: 30:39 If you've enjoyed this podcast, and you think it would be useful or fun for other couple entrepreneurs, please go to iTunes and leave a star rating and a review to help them find it.
Blaine: 30:48 And join us next time for more pizza as we return to our conversation with Francesco and Alison.
Honey: 30:54 More pizza.
Blaine: 30:55 More pizza.
Honey: 30:56 You're gonna hear more about the challenges, the trials, the tribulations of running a pizzeria, and we're gonna eat just a little bit more.
Blaine: 31:03 Next time, here on CoupleCo, Working with Your Spouse for Fun and Profit.
Honey: 31:07 Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.
Blaine: 31:09 Love you, Baby.
Honey: 31:10 Love you, too.
Blaine: 31:11 CoupleCo out.