He turned to fellow restaurateur Luigi Comandatore, his current partner in the downtown eatery BREADTribeca, to come up with something different. They settled on pizza—but not your usual greasy slice. The partners, which further includes Bread co-owner Dario Milanin, who previously ran a pizzeria in Italy, are aiming for something more authentic.
“There’s nothing really as great-tasting as bread and tomatoes with cheese, but you don’t really get it here,” said Mr. Giraldi, who likened the average New York pie to “a bad woman, in many ways—‘Oh, I love you, I’m really horny.’ And then, ‘Hey, that wasn’t really great.’ That happens with pizza. To me, a lot.
“You think it’s easy,” he continued. “You get it at the table and you have beer. And everyone’s, ‘Oh, that’s good,’ you know? But it’s never really great. And, in Italy—in Naples—it’s great.”
SITTING DOWN to discuss the new concept one recent afternoon, Mr. Giraldi and Mr. Comandatore expressed confidence in the more casual business model of a pizzeria. But after waiting a half-hour for an assistant to retrieve coffee from a nearby deli, one wondered whether E.U.’s many pitfalls would continue to haunt the place.
“Do you think we’d be able to deliver the pizza better than we can order him coffee?” Mr. Giraldi asked his partner. “That makes me crazy!”
Mr. Giraldi conceded that the concept of a new style of pizzeria had already lost some of its novelty, as other prominent restaurateurs, including Keith McNally and Jim Lahey, have both launched similar concepts in recent months. But he and his partner insisted they are going to even greater lengths to elevate the hallowed pie.
Beyond the pricey new rotating pizza oven, Mr. Giraldi and Co. are importing a new chef straight from Naples and seeking official certification through the esteemed Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. “I’m Italian,” said Mr. Comandatore. “I don’t want to make a pizza that’s embarrassing.”
The newly refurbished restaurant, opening March 24, will be renamed Tonda—which is Italian for “round,” in homage to the first circular pies made in Naples many centuries ago.
The partners further aim to enhance the menu with a little bit of the previously banned aperitivo. “I believe that, and I think Luigi agrees with me, that beer and wine in this pizzeria will work,” Mr. Giraldi said. “But, it’s the East Village. Why can’t they come in and have a drink with it? You tell me. So we’re going again. We’re trying again.”
It seems the onetime whipping boy has already made in-roads with his old foes in the neighborhood. In January, the local Community Board 3, which had staunchly opposed him in the beginning, finally approved his renewed request for full liquor service—albeit with a slew of conditions. (The State Liquor Authority has yet to grant the full license.) On March 16, the community board will consider Mr. Giraldi’s overall change of operation.
“They trust us to the degree that we are not liars, which they accused us of being,” Mr. Giraldi said. “They know we’re trying to make it work with legitimate food. They realize I don’t have my film pals showing up in limousines, clogging their streets. I’m like, ‘Guys, you don’t understand—I’m in bed at nine o’clock. I don’t party any longer. I don’t get off on nightlife.’ It’s a legitimate place.
“Will pizza work? We hope so. We think so. We’re going to give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, we do something else. It’s like me shooting dailies all the time. You like? You don’t like? You move on to the next day.”