It doesn’t take long to learn from Ben D’Allesandro that he and his wife have three young children and a fourth on the way.
When he’s not at his downtown pizzeria on St. Philip Street, he’s probably spending time with his family in their comfortable Rutledge Avenue home. His 3-year-old daughter may crawl into his lap during an interview. The dog will stop by to get rubbed. A son wearing a Captain America T-shirt will try to figure out why someone is asking his dad a lot of questions.
There’s a lot of activity, as you would expect in a home with three kids under age 8.
“I like getting my kids together with their cousins and having them play together while we’re watching football on a Sunday afternoon.”
His crew, along with that of his business partner and brother Nick, might swim a little, eat a little, root for the Eagles and eat some more.
At home, D’Allesandro, who comes from the Philadelphia area where pizza joints seem to be on every block, shares cooking duties with his wife, Jenifer. They met at his restaurant where she was a server. They dated a few years and got married in 2013. A year later, they moved into a solid 2,300-square-foot brick home built in 1925 on Rutledge Avenue.
“At home, I cook a lot of pasta,” he said. “It’s easy and the kids love it. I also make a good grilled cheese.”
And, of course, he twirls dough into pizza — but that’s at the restaurant, which is less than a mile away. His favorite: the Spicy Benny, a pie with red sauce, cheese, pepperoni, jalapenos and feta cheese. And while already a little spicy, there’s a good chance he’ll slather his slices with chili garlic sauce, a recent food addiction.
D’Allesandro seems to blend business and family seamlessly, taking both in stride and enjoying moments for what they are.
“I’m never shocked if I have to go down there and do something.”
If that includes making pizza, that’s fine. “I like doing it,” he said. “I still think I make the best pizza there.”
New to Charleston in 1998
D’Allesandro narrowed his pick for college to two places — Drexel University in his hometown area and the College of Charleston. He remembers getting information in the mail about the college. It charmed him.
“I thought Charleston was a beautiful city,” he recalled. “I didn’t know a single person here. They mailed to me a bird’s eye picture of the Battery and I thought, man, this is a beautiful place. I guess I just wanted to go someplace that looked interesting.”
Soon after he got here in 1998, he picked up a job at Gilroy’s Pizza Pub on King Street. The job became an inspiration.
“When I started there, Mr. Gilroy was the owner,” he said. “Gilroy was tossing pizzas, throwing them in the oven and making deliveries himself. I remember thinking, man, this guy is really doing it.”
But D’Allesandro also saw the business side of things in the pizza joint. “He just had a great small business mind and was all about revenue and expenses. There’s a lot to be said for the time I spent with Gilroy himself — the actual running of a small business. He really took a strong liking to me.”
Fast forward a few years as D’Allesandro kept working in pizza places, including one in Spain when he was studying for a semester while finishing his college degree. By 2005, he and his brother, two years younger, decided to start a pizza restaurant.
“We both agreed there was a lot of opportunity for a pizzeria here. Our number one goal was to find a cheap place. We would have sold pizza out of a garage.” They found a home on St. Philip Street and opened in 2006.
In the first couple of years in the business, the D’Allesandro brothers nabbed customers in what then wasn’t the best part of town by having bingo, karaoke and “super cheap beer deals.” It often attracted a party crowd. Over time, the restaurant’s reputation and success grew. The brothers have a franchise in Greenville and opened a restaurant this year in the Nexton area of Summerville.
On what he’s learned in business so far: “Make it easy to market. There isn’t overbearing management. The product isn’t incredibly complicated.”
Time to relax
These days when D’Allesandro wants to have a little me-time away from the family and business, he’s got two outlets: sailing and golf, both of which seem to be approached with wariness.
“I’ve got a little Sunfish (sailboat) that I’ve been waiting to sink to the bottom of the harbor,” he joked. “I attempt to go out on it one time a week or so.”
During the pandemic, he also took up golf with two friends.
“I’ve really been liking that. We’re all equally as bad and it works out well.”
The Lowdown on Ben D’Allesandro
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pa.; raised Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
Education: Associate’s degree, Trident Technical College; Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies, City Planning and Administration, College of Charleston.
Current profession: Pizzeria owner.
Family: Wife (Jenifer), three children (Malcolm,
Wolf and Shoshie).
Family dog: Tag, a Weimaraner/Labrador mix.
Something people would be surprised to learn about you: “I delivered my second kid in our car.”
Hobbies: Walking while thinking, basketball, reading newspapers, running.
Technology: “I’m a big fan of TikTok — it’s a fantastic platform for regular people to easily display their amazing creativity.”
Favorite musicians: 90’s hip hop, Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band.
Favorite new music: Drake, Sturgill Simpson.
Favorite food: Chicken Parm.
Favorite non-Italian food: A well-blended açai bowl.
Favorite pizza topping: Feta.
Favorite sauce: Chili garlic sauce by Huy Fong Foods.
What meal would you want for your last supper: My mother’s lemon chicken and her Belgian waffles.
Pet peeve: Drivers that try to get around me while I’m in the middle of a three-point turn.
Describe your best day in 50 words or less: Coffee while reading the paper; six mile run; recuperate for an hour; spend the afternoon with my family; grab some dinner with my friends; watch the Philadelphia Eagles win a playoff game at Moe’s Crosstown with my brother.
Charitable work, causes: “Lately I’ve been really into the poll working for elections. I just started doing it in February and I love how I’m able to directly assist with our democratic process.”
Quote: “An eye for an eye makes the world blind.”
Philosophy: “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”
Anything about the pandemic affected you in particular: “I really miss having all of our amazing customers dining with us. They make the place a lot more fun.”