Pizza Expo Podcast Episode 13 - Billy Manzo

November 01, 2021

Pizza Expo Podcast Episode 13 - Billy Manzo

[00:00:00.370] - Rev and Eric

We are back with another exciting episode of Who's at Pizza Expo in the Marqii booth. We're here with world pizza champion Billy Manzo.


[00:00:07.090] - Billy

And I'm here with you guys.


[00:00:08.050] - Rev and Eric

That's right. That's right. Exciting.


[00:00:09.610] - Rev and Eric

Federal. I almost said a different name and I don't know why.


[00:00:13.750] - Billy

That's okay. Wouldn't be the first time.


[00:00:15.070] - Rev and Eric

Well, I know, right.


[00:00:16.450] - Billy

Dude, I'm five five. I've been called Elvis Pressley, you know.


[00:00:19.570] - Rev and Eric

So how's Expo? What are you seeing? Anything cool?


[00:00:22.030] - Billy

Um, I think the best part of Expo this year is if you're a first timer and you're opening up a business, there is no better Expo to come to than this one specifically this year, because it's so controllable and you can really focus in and the vendors will actually talk to you. They have time to have a conversation.


[00:00:42.190] - Billy

And it's really good building your brand that way, where you can really have that conversation, which, as you guys know years ago. Excuse me? Excuse me? You can't get that conversation in. So if you're a first timer, this is the best show.


[00:00:56.590] - Rev and Eric

Yeah and I think people make the mistake of looking at it as a series of vendors, like, you're developing partners. These are people that have something that helps your business. Whatever it is, it's a product, it's a service. Marketing, whatever. They're your partner.


[00:01:09.250] - Billy

Well, you also have them to see, you're 100%, right. Absolutely. But that takes time. You have to prove to the manufacturer that you're capable of running a business, developing that relationship over at least four year time period because, you know, restaurants are the highest rate of failure in the world. Never mind what we're going through with Corona. So when you can build that relationship and I tell everybody this, I just got done talking about this.


[00:01:38.170] - Billy

If you can look at a vendor and say "can you" and go like this. You have to put your hand up so everybody sees it. And you can go like this to the vendor, "can you help me?" You know from marketing, just from marketing. If you can say, "I need your help". You mean I got a job working for Dave's Cookies or whatever and I get to do my job and help somebody. Boom.


[00:02:02.150] - Rev and Eric

That's the reason I do this, I like helping.


[00:02:06.590] - Billy

And when you're helping, you can help. But the person you're helping has to want to accept your help. I'll go on a limb.


[00:02:15.290] - Rev and Eric

Will Grant just said the same thing. There's a lot of people here that want to accept the help.


[00:02:21.950] - Billy

Listen, it's the difference, it's really the difference between successful people in an industry and people who are not successful in the industry. Any industry, it has nothing to do with pizza. If you're not willing to listen and learn, you will not be successful.


[00:02:46.070] - Rev and Eric

Couldn't agree more.


[00:02:47.390] - Rev and Eric

I want to ask you a totally bizarre, off the...


[00:02:49.610] - Billy

Ask me whatever you'd like.


[00:02:50.750] - Rev and Eric

I feel like Billy Manzo can handle those.


[00:02:53.630] - Rev and Eric

Best cigar you ever smoked?


[00:02:56.390] - Billy

Ashton Virgin Sun Grown.


[00:02:57.530] - Rev and Eric

Do you remember the day you smoked one?


[00:02:59.090] - Billy

Yes, it was at the Biloxi, Mississippi Cigar, not the Big Smoke, but at a trade show and the Ashton. Yeah, I remember you did your homework on my cigar background. And the Philadelphia police officers, a couple of them started a company called Ashton. And I got fed in Ashton. My boy, Victor Vitalli, who was the rep at the time, said you're going to try Virgin Sun Grown. And to be honest with you, I think I know a little bit about cigars now.


[00:03:37.890] - Billy

Carlos, how are you doing? I haven't seen Carlos since maybe last time I had a show in Vegas. But the cigar industry is as opposite as this you can get.


[00:03:48.810] - Rev and Eric

Really? What makes it? What, why?


[00:03:55.570] - Rev and Eric

It's already vegan. It's already plant based.


[00:04:00.070] - Billy

There's this sole genuine, I don't know, it's like nobody's competitive.


[00:04:10.370] - Rev and Eric

In cigars or in this?


[00:04:11.330] - Billy

In cigars. Yeah because what happens is, if you've got a box of Virgin Sun Growns and you got a box of Opus X and you get a consumer that wants his, you'll call and say, "listen, you got that box, you want to flip it?"


[00:04:28.250] - Billy

You know, it's a $500 box. You want to get rid of it? Yeah. Make $50 on it. Okay. Get rid of it. You got to boom, boom, boom.


[00:04:34.910] - Rev and Eric



[00:04:35.570] - Billy

Now, some guys aren't like that. But when you have that relationship, through the roof because that's what the manufacturer's like.


[00:04:43.970] - Rev and Eric

Yeah, that's cool. The other thing I wanted to ask you about because we talked about it on Instagram Live before, the building that Federal Hill Pizza is in. Talk about that building and what the history behind it is.


[00:04:53.390] - Billy

It's a great conversation right now. So me and my wife, who is actually videotaping us, who actually is smarter than me.


[00:05:01.070] - Rev and Eric

I figured


[00:05:03.350] - Billy

She has that on video. I mean, my wife's been in Forbes Magazine, I can go on and on about her, 25 Halloween shops in the business. Halloween outlet. You know, her family, Ovco Box Company. Ovco Boxes, that's her family.


[00:05:16.610] - Billy

So we made a conscious decision to buy the building in the neighborhood based on the analytics at the time and the statistics of what was going on. As I look at the camera. So we made a decision, buy the building, make the move, own the property. Very important. We bought the building really cheap. Based on the building in the neighborhood. We adapted the building based on the business plan, school, education, teaching, inner city kids, nonprofit, four for one, money is coming in from different directions, if you know what I mean.


[00:05:53.010] - Billy

Johnson & Wales being a mile down the street, juniors and seniors learning, eating, tasting. The building is 11,000 sqft. Special event room. I have the Providence Marriott, Biltmore, four hotels within a mile radius. They didn't want prior to covid. They didn't even want to look at parties 25 to 80, just too small. They would literally, I'm not kidding you guys, they would go, "We know Chef Billy Manzo, he's going to take care of you. Go down the street."


[00:06:24.990] - Rev and Eric

Wow.  You've got to love that


[00:06:26.790] - Billy

Dude. Pizza, pasta, salad. $35-$40 bucks a head. Soda is extra, in the extra room. You saw the movie screens. Your kids want a movie? Put the movie on.


[00:06:38.190] - Rev and Eric

Yeah, there it is.


[00:06:39.210] - Billy

And guess what my biggest consumer was? It even blew me away. Bar Mitzvah's and Bat Mitzvah's. Those big 300 parties that I used to go to when I was a kid. All done. 25, 30 kids having a party, small room, controllable food. We did what, almost 20 of them, 30 of them in one year? Because you know as well as I do, you get one and you treat somebody within that community right, I'm knocking on wood, you get them all, you get them all.


[00:07:06.930] - Rev and Eric

I'm not sure this is wood.


[00:07:07.848] - Billy

Yeah, it's probably not.


[00:07:10.473] - Rev and Eric

Looks like wood but


[00:07:10.578] - Billy

But you get them all


[00:07:10.590] - Rev and Eric

How big is your party's area?


[00:07:12.450] - Billy

We can hold, in one room, we can hold about 150 easy. The other room is another 60 or 70. The building legally is 325.


[00:07:23.730] - Rev and Eric

So how, because I think that building is fairly old...


[00:07:27.330] - Billy

1925 Vaudeville movie theater.


[00:07:28.290] - Rev and Eric

Was it kind of an up and coming area?


[00:07:30.330] - Billy



[00:07:30.750] - Rev and Eric

Not at all?


[00:07:31.590] - Billy

No, it was actually a very Latino area. Awesome food. We would not have bought the building if there wasn't a market for what we thought there could be.


[00:07:42.990] - Rev and Eric

You build it and they will come


[00:07:44.730] - Billy

Inner city people, Latino, they couldn't have their Quinceanera's anywhere. They didn't have anywhere. And that community is exploding. If I showed you a picture of that room when African American consumers, which are loyal to the bone, would build that room for a small wedding, I would walk in and almost want a fall. Gorgeous room, up lighting, 25, 26 foot high ceilings. That building has JBL commercial movie sound because the movie, used to be a movie theater, my sub bases are the size of Volkswagens.


[00:08:22.230] - Rev and Eric

Sounds like Kevin Cosner's private pizza party viewing room.


[00:08:27.570] - Billy

His daughter lives in Rhode Island


[00:08:27.570] - Rev and Eric

Well there you go.


[00:08:27.570] - Rev and Eric

Totally, totally flipped the subject here.


[00:08:32.070] - Rev and Eric

We're here in the Marqii booth. They're a marketing company. They do marketing. I want to ask, how do you market private events, catering? If I could ask...


[00:08:44.830] - Billy

I've been very successful in my life because you guys may not believe this, but I'm five five. I will never play pro basketball.


[00:08:52.870] - Rev and Eric

Now, you were going to say you're successful in life because of your wife, right?


[00:08:55.750] - Billy

Well, you've asked me a question. I don't know the answer to, that's her lane.


[00:09:00.190] - Rev and Eric

Christine, come over here.


[00:09:00.790] - Billy

So come on this side. She does not like this.


[00:09:03.610] - Rev and Eric

That's all right.


[00:09:05.170] - Billy

This is her lane.


[00:09:06.010] - Rev and Eric

So the question was, how do you market the special events? Are you the one that's doing that?


[00:09:14.350] - Billy

Sit, sit.


[00:09:14.350] - Rev and Eric

Grab another chair.


[00:09:17.770] - Christine

I don't need to sit. So, this building is in the neighborhood where my husband grew, where Billy grew up. I don't know if you already said this part of the story, but it's three streets away from where his parents still live, and an 8th of a mile from our house where we have our eleven year old daughter. This is our community.


[00:09:36.550] - Rev and Eric



[00:09:38.770] - Christine

So, we consciously bought this building because we wanted to be a part of our community.


[00:09:44.230] - Rev and Eric

Love it.


[00:09:44.710] - Christine

We do a lot of work with different groups, like Adoption Rhode Island.


[00:09:53.350] - Billy

Hasboro Children's,


[00:09:54.130] - Christine

We do a lot of work with kids. Teaching them how to eat healthy. We do a lot of work with formerly incarcerated people. That's my passion. And I've made it Billy's passion because that's, we try to lift people up, so our goal is to have people that normally wouldn't be able to get a job, train them. Like Billy will teach you how to make, you can come in, have no experience. But if you want to show up, he'll teach you how to make bread. He'll teach you how to make pizza. He'll teach you how to do it because that gives him joy.


[00:10:26.110] - Christine

And then like we're helping our community. That sort of marketing. Like we do all of the parties for people...


[00:10:37.010] - Rev and Eric

Sounds like everyone.


[00:10:46.950] - Christine

That we reach out to


[00:10:47.730] - Billy



[00:10:49.590] - Christine

And when you said we charge $35 a head, no we don't, we charge $20 a head.


[00:10:54.270] - Billy

Wishful thinking


[00:10:54.302] - Christine

And it's pizza, pasta, salad and dessert.


[00:10:54.318] - Billy

Wishful thinking.


[00:10:54.318] - Christine

Yeah, I mean, like we're not there to like, we're not making billions of dollars in that building, that was never our goal but it's helped us to jump start the Billy Manzo brand. And it makes us...


[00:11:00.390] - Rev and Eric

It's a gorgeous brand.


[00:11:04.230] - Christine

It makes us happy. We didn't stay in business during covid...


[00:11:04.480] - Billy

Thank you


[00:11:05.790] - Christine

To make money. We stayed in business to employ our 50 employees. And you know, well, Billy Manzo hasn't taken the check in a year.


[00:11:17.130] - Billy

Yeah. Worry about my people, man.


[00:11:19.410] - Christine

This is what we're, this is our goal.


[00:11:20.310] - Rev and Eric

Love it.


[00:11:20.970] - Christine

I mean, hopefully not for the rest of our lives but


[00:11:23.730] - Rev and Eric

Right, right


[00:11:23.910] - Christine

Yeah but until things get, we figure out what the restaurant industry is going to look like, moving forward, which is exciting because we have a say in that, right. Like it's never going to be the same. But what does the restaurant experience look like, moving forward? And we don't know the answer to that. But we sure as hell have, like, a hand in forming that.


[00:11:44.970] - Rev and Eric

I love everything you said because I believe it. And I think a lot of the conversations we've had in the last couple of days. This guy right here, Alan, with Sophia's Pizza in San Antonio. Same thing talking about just pouring into people and pouring in, because when you pour in, it comes back.


[00:11:59.310] - Billy

Oh absolutely.


[00:11:59.850] - Christine

When you walk by somebody and you make eye contact with them and you say "hello".


[00:12:03.510] - Rev and Eric



[00:12:04.170] - Christine

Okay, like that's it.


[00:12:06.090] - Billy

Imagine that.


[00:12:06.450] - Rev and Eric

What a concept.


[00:12:07.590] - Rev and Eric

I'll tell you what I think is different about food service now, is there's a guest at the table that's always been there and restaurants are finally welcoming that guest. And it's the iPhone or the Android, right? We in Covid has pushed forward at like, we got to meet our guests on here.


[00:12:24.210] - Christine

And I think once you realize, like your guests might come in and they might have had a shitty day and it has nothing to do with you, and they're mad about something, and then they take it out on you and your pizza or whatever it is, it has nothing. I'll steal it from Billy, you have to have enough self respect and dignity to know that it's not you. Like everybody's going through their sh**.


[00:12:46.470] - Rev and Eric

I was going to ask earlier. Totally thousand degree different subject. But there's a lot of plant based toppings here today.


[00:12:53.070] - Billy



[00:12:53.910] - Rev and Eric

Do you see a spot for that?


[00:12:55.050] - Billy

That's Christine


[00:12:55.650] - Rev and Eric

Thank you.


[00:12:57.390] - Billy

We stay in our lane, that's why we stay married.


[00:12:59.310] - Rev and Eric

There you go. Do you see a spot for that in your pizza shop?


[00:13:02.910] - Billy

Absolutely. Why not? Yeah, we do a lot of testing, again, knock on wood, I'm very humbled. I get number A56B, next bag, A96Z, and I do reports. I'm very blessed. I went to College. I was going to go to law school, so I'm capable of writing reports, doing some things that maybe another pizza maker...I'm a business person. Okay? This is the way I chalk it up. I'm a business person that specializes in pizza. That's what I do. People will blow their mind.


[00:13:41.430] - Billy

"Oh you're a master pizzaiolo". "You're certified". You go with it. I'm a business person. My widget right now, my passion is pizza, but that doesn't mean that defines me. I'm more than welcome and easy to go do something else. My background is film and television. I used to work with Paramount Pictures. I've done really cool sh**. So for me, I love what I do right now. And guess what? It seems like this is the road I'll be traveling, which isn't a bad road.


[00:14:09.990] - Rev and Eric

We don't want to...


[00:14:10.890] - Rev and Eric

It's a tasty one.


[00:14:11.730] - Billy

Yeah, right.


[00:14:12.330] - Rev and Eric

We don't want to keep you all day. I've got two questions for you and whatever he's got. 3 seconds to answer both questions.


[00:14:18.630] - Billy

Go for it. I love this.


[00:14:19.230] - Rev and Eric

Coolest car you've ever driven?


[00:14:21.690] - Billy

Ferrari 3....Ferrari 430.


[00:14:26.730] - Rev and Eric

He's driven some cool cars, that's why I wanted to ask.


[00:14:28.530] - Billy

Ferrari 430, a gated red. 6,224 miles.


[00:14:34.770] - Rev and Eric

What do you do with that car?


[00:14:36.150] - Billy

I have a lot of fun with it.


[00:14:37.950] - Rev and Eric

Alive or dead, who would you like to cook for?


[00:14:41.070] - Billy

Ah, that's a great question. Your questions freaking rock.


[00:14:43.650] - Rev and Eric

You know I come at you with the hard stuff.


[00:14:44.850] - Billy

Ah, I love your questions. My God. I got the goosebumps on that one.


[00:14:47.320] - Rev and Eric

Your three seconds are up


[00:14:48.750] - Billy

Robert John Kennedy.


[00:14:49.830] - Rev and Eric

All right. I like it, great answer. You got anything else?


[00:14:52.710] - Rev and Eric

Weird Al, mine would be Weird Al.


[00:14:54.030] - Rev and Eric



[00:14:55.050] - Billy

Oh yeah.


[00:14:56.190] - Rev and Eric

He's the most genius marketer that ever lived. He's maintained relevance his entire career.


[00:15:03.070] - Rev and Eric

Well, we appreciate you.


[00:15:04.330] - Billy

Any time for you guys.


[00:15:05.170] - Rev and Eric

Are we going to see you at World Pizza Champion dinner tonight?


[00:15:07.630] - Billy

Uh, I think it's up to her, my team, point me in the right direction.


[00:15:12.610] - Rev and Eric

All right, well good, Perfect Crust is taking care of dinner tonight.


[00:15:15.010] - Billy

Perfect Crust. Check these guys out. Keep looking at it.


[00:15:18.550] - Rev and Eric

Billy Manzo.