Hooks Brings Pizza Back To BC

 Hooks Brings Pizza Back To BC

By Dan Guarino

Three weeks ago, Hooks Pizza opened up in Broad Channel and the jury’s in: Folks are hooked.

Word of mouth has spread fast and even on a sunny mid-week morning, before its gates have gone up, customers are poking their heads in asking, “Are you open yet?”

Once all is ready and the ovens are hot, a steady stream of customers start coming through their door to dine-in, take out, or order over the phone.

Offering a menu of slices and pies from Napoletana and Siciliana to Grandma, Margherita, Buffalo/BBQ Chicken, Spicy Rigatoni and house specialty “Hook’d” pizza which combines spicy pepperoni, crumbled sausage and “hints of caramelized onion finished with Mike’s Hot Honey,” they have already become a Rockaway/Broad Channel favorite. Hooks also serves up entrees and heroes like sausage and peppers, chicken, eggplant, veal or even shrimp parmigiana, calzones, chicken, spinach and sausage and pepper rolls, Caesar wraps, alfredo, vodka, Bolognese, and garlic and oil pasta dishes plus spicy rigatoni, baked ziti, lasagna, and garlic knots. They also feature lunch and other specials.

“Yesterday I got a call for 25 pies out of the blue,” says Hooks owner Andrew Guastella. Business, he says, has been very good since they opened. “I mark this as a successful opening. Feedback has been very good across the board, very welcoming,” he adds.

“You’re doing a great job,” a customer tells Guastella as he personally works behind the counter with his crew. “Everybody’s raving about you.”

Stopping for a slice, regular Martin Cawthorne says, “I give Andrew five stars right off the bat. He’s very good at what he does.”

It turns out that one of those things is building successful new businesses where others had fallen by the wayside.

Several years ago, Guastella and a partner established Pizza D’Amore on Beach 116th Street where Slices N Ices previously operated. Despite the pandemic and other setbacks, they turned it into a successful operation, being voted one of the top two best pizzas in all of Queens by the borough’s Chamber of Commerce.

Last year, after decades in business, Tommy’s Pizza in Broad Channel closed down after its owner fell ill. After several months, it opened its doors as a new business with a newly renovated interior and a new owner, Ronnie Barone, who kept the name Tommy’s over the door. A few months ago, for reasons that are still unclear, the “new” Tommy’s closed up shop. With an eye for starting something new, Rockaway resident Guastella contacted Barone, struck a deal to purchase the business and within month’s Hooks opened up.

As Broad Channel resident James Badamo noted then, “I rarely post, but I just had to throw it out there that Hooks Pizza has brought a solid pie back to Broad Channel. They knocked it outta the park!”

Guastella explains it takes a lot of hard work to take things like Hooks to that next level. “I started in the restaurant business at the tender age of 13, maybe 12. I started at El Caribe. The maitre’d took me under his wing. Then I went on to Michael’s of Brooklyn. These places were like a college. Between them both I got a really good start.”

Today he comes in seven days a week at 9 a.m. to start up the ovens. “With pizza, the most important thing is the temperatures,” he says, noting because Broad Channel has no gas lines, his ovens run on propane, which makes getting those temps just right more of a challenge.

At the start of the day, he consults with his crew about ingredients, choices, trying new mixes and menu items. The food he serves not only has to taste good, but also look good. “It looks good on the pizza,” he says of a new combination. “It pops.”

“You’ll definitely have the classics,” he notes. “But every store I open, I try to try new things. I do enjoy the process of development.”

A very big part of building a business, Guastella explains, is “you need a team.” Stressing the experience and skill of the people he has assembled, he reflects, “I’ve always been blessed to work with talented people, to have skilled people.”

Besides directing operations over the day, Guastella will be behind the counter, working with that team and putting on his apron to make pies and greet customers. Everyone is greeted with a smile, and many are already familiar. “How was your day?” he asks a customer. “How’s your grandfather doing?” he asks another.

Besides the look and taste of Hooks’ food, he says, “We love to share our hospitality.”

Most days he will work ‘til “11, 12 at night,” then come back to start all over again the next day. Customers will still be coming through the doors even as they are closing up. Everyone gets welcoming service.

Besides getting customers from Rockaway and Broad Channel, he notes, “We’re getting a lot of people from Howard Beach.”

“The pizza business is different than most kinds of restaurants,” he said. “We’re more like a bakery. We make everything fresh right here.”

What makes Hooks stand out? “We all start with all the same ingredients- flour, dough, sauce, cheese. But the variations are tremendous,” he says.

Even the name, Hooks, helps establish a distinctive brand. “How many ‘Sal’s Pizza’ places are there? Or ‘John’s’ or ‘Gino’s’?”

“Everybody I know here, everyone I’m friends with in this neighborhood [Broad Channel] is a fisherman. Hooks, it’s a homage to this community.”

Standing outside his shop late in the evening, he explains their new sign should be coming in two to three weeks. He also has plans to develop the backyard into an attractive and comfortable eating area, a first on the block.

 As his business grows, Guastella invites people who haven’t come through his door yet, “If you’re in the area, stop in and be the judge for yourself.”

“We’re going to be here for quite a while!”

Hooks is located at 915 Cross Bay Blvd. To order or for more info, call: 347-619-8044 and follow @Hookspizzaparlor on Instagram for updates.

Rockaway Stuff

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