June 27, 2011 // Franchising.com // HOUSTON – He grew up in his grandparents' kitchen in New York savoring homemade Italian tastes. As a teenager he mastered many of his current specialties while learning from some of Italy's finest connoisseurs of culinary wizardry at his parents' fine Italian restaurant.
Now, the acclaimed chef, who has taken Texans to Italy and back for nearly two decades with every visit to Russo's New York Pizzeria and Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen, has a plan in place to share his passion for authentic Italian food with more of America.
Chef Anthony Russo, one of the Lone Star State's most distinguished restaurateurs, announced today that he is leading Russo's New York Pizzeria and Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen from its home base in Houston into new U.S. markets. Primarily focused on franchise growth throughout the south, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma and untapped Texas markets are all key expansion areas.
"Everyone's part of the Russo family when they come in," said Russo, who opened his first restaurant at 18 in Clear Lake, Texas and his first Russo's New York Pizzeria in 1992. "Whether you are joining the family as a franchisee, trying us out for the first time or you're a regular at one of our restaurants, we welcome everyone with true Italian heartfelt graciousness."
The warmth and tenderness that radiates from Russo's has earned the eateries' undeniable distinction as the place to go for a genuine Italian experience. This unique appeal has helped Russo grow his New York Pizzeria and Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen concepts to 28 locations in three states. Five additional locations are slated to open in the second half of 2011. And, company forecasts call for 10 to 15 new restaurants in 2012.
Plus, systemwide restaurant sales are significantly outperforming the category, with revenues increasing at a 15 to 20 percent clip over last year.
"Our restaurants are more than just a place to eat good food," noted Russo. "They are a gathering place for families, a social hub for friends, and a dynamic business opportunity for franchisees. We look forward to executing our strategic growth and introducing more guests to Russo's."
Menu items remain focused on traditional Italian favorites, with the company's classic New York style pizzas headlining the offerings. Recipes dating back to Chef Anthony's grandparents are featured, including freshly prepared Gnocchi Bolognese, Chicken Picatta, Pasta Di Mare and handcrafted Italian Cannolis. All items are made-from-scratch daily with fresh, premium ingredients that Russo has hand-selected himself.
"We built our rich tradition around the Pizzeria, but our loyal fans always craved more. That's why a few years ago we launched Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen, which delivers customers expanded options for lunch and dinner," noted Russo. "It's a luxury to have two complementary concepts. One focused on a more fast-casual dining experience and the other on upscale casual family dining. It gives us and our franchisees a lot of flexibility when it comes to available real-estate."
Another of Russo's distinctive elements is the Italian flare seen in store design. No two locations are the same, as each is built to encompass the community where it resides. Appointed with upscale décor, restaurants feature one-of-a-kind ovens that are in full view of diners as they enjoy their meals amid the oven's glow, magnificent smells and the entertainment of pizza makers hand-tossing dough.
Additionally, guests can soon relive the experience at home. Chef Anthony has developed a line of private labeled sauces, soups, dressings and other items that will soon be available at grocers. Many of the items he's created for the line come from Russo family recipes.
Russo's has received several industry accolades, both for its award-winning food and franchise operations. Franchise Business Review (FBR) recently named Russo's New York Pizzeria one of its "Top Franchises." FBR also presented Russo's with its esteemed "Franchise Satisfaction Award," a designation reserved for franchise concepts receiving the highest satisfaction scores from its franchisees. Entrepreneur magazine recently listed Russo's New York Pizza in its "Franchise 500" rankings, and Technomic, the restaurant industry's foremost authority on research and consulting, named Russo's a "Top Rated Franchise."
Russo's operates with a simple promise: "If it isn't fresh, don't serve it." Founded in 1992 by Chef Anthony Russo, Russo's New York Pizzeria is known as the only place to find authentic New York Pizza and Italian dishes in Texas. Russo launched his Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen concept to complement the Pizzeria in 2008, with an expanded selection of Italian menu items. Current company operations include 28 restaurants in three states, with plans for significant expansion through franchising in key U.S. markets already underway. For more information and to learn about available franchise opportunities visit www.russorestaurants.com.