Business and Operations
Kelowna’s Tony D
By John Geary
From Naples to New York, from Calgary to Kelowna
By John Geary
Passion for pizza keeps him going. From Naples to New York, from Calgary to Kelowna, Tony D’Anzica has always had a passion for pizza, a passion that has played a large role in his life. In 48 years of working in the pizza business.
Passion for pizza keeps him going.
From Naples to New York, from Calgary to Kelowna, Tony D’Anzica has always had a passion for pizza, a passion that has played a large role in his life. In 48 years of working in the pizza business, that passion has not diminished and is still present at his latest venture, Tony D’s, in Kelowna, B.C.
|Tony with wife, Margaret, and daughter, Josephine.|
Born in Italy, D’Anzica’s first worked in a pizzeria in New York City, owned by his uncle. He worked there for six months in 1956 before joining the U.S. army as a volunteer. Because he spoke very little English, the army discharged him, and he went back to working in the pizza business in New York.
He worked at a place called Charlie’s Pizza on 96th St. and First Avenue, but within a year opened a pizzeria of his own in the Bronx. He bought a pizzeria that had gone out of business and successfully resurrected it.
In resurrecting the failed Bronx pizzeria, D’Anzica used the same approach he still uses to this day: top-notch ingredients.
“From Day One, I always used the best stuff you could buy,” he says.
The pizzeria was successful enough to allow him to get married and start a family. He eventually ended up running two successful pizzerias in the Bronx.
While running those pizzerias, he also found time to compete as a cyclist in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He competed for the U.S. since his father was originally born in the States, making his son an American citizen. To train, he would cycle in Central Park in the early morning, pedaling 10 circuits of a six-mile loop.
After 10 years of living in New York, his wife, Margaret, wanted to return to Italy, so in 1966, they sold everything and moved back to Naples. D’Anzica tried to run a bakery there, using modern, efficient technology, but it didn’t pan out.
“The town was not ready for that kind of bread,” he says. His mother was living in Calgary at the time, and she encouraged him to move back to North America to start up a pizzeria in the southern Alberta city. So in 1970, he came back across the ocean and set up shop in Calgary.
He built a successful business there, but when a drunk driver hit and killed his eldest son while he was delivering a pizza, D’Anzica moved back to Italy and “hibernated for about 10 years.”
After surviving an earthquake in 1980, his sister in Calgary, urged him to return to Canada. He did not want to go back to Calgary, so he chose Kelowna.
He opened a pizzeria on Bernard Avenue, which he ran successfully for 10 years. Then, at 56, they had enough money to allow him to retire, and his wife convinced him to do just that.
“I retired, but I had nothing to do – I’m not the kind to take vacations – so I started running marathons.”
At the age of 59, he ran in the 1996 Vancouver Marathon, completing the course in 3 hours, 5 minutes. A picture of him crossing the finish line hangs in his pizzeria on Harvey Avenue.
His running career came to an end when he developed some hip problems. At 67, he still wants to keep busy though, and decided Kelowna needed a new pizzeria.
“I thought Kelowna didn’t have a good pizza store any more, they were all big franchises,” he says. “I thought I should show people how to make a good pizza, here.” He did that by following the same formula he’d always used: buy the best ingredients possible. He purchases most of his ingredients from a Quebec supplier.
Tony D’s has been a big success since opening at the beginning of the summer. “I’m not even in the phone book yet, but people find out through word of mouth, and they’ve been coming in like crazy.”
That does not mean he plans to rest on his laurels, however. He is always looking to improve.
“I’d love to be able to get cheese from Wisconsin,” he says. “I think they have the best cheese you can buy. But I don’t have a supplier from there, yet.”
Looking back on his experiences in Naples, New York, Calgary and Kelowna, he’s found he really warms to the Okanagan city. “Calgary was very busy … people don’t sleep there, especially on the weekend.
“New York was always busy, good for business, but there were a lot of hard people around … Kelowna is more tranquil, that’s what I like.”
And at his new pizzeria, he can continue his passion for making pizza.
“It’s my life … I love making pizza, and meeting all the different people who come in.”