The very first Pagliacci logo featured a clown. It was published on the first menus, but never made it in neon. It took us a year before putting a sign up at our pizza joint on The Ave. At that time we dropped the clown and simply stuck with our name. The image reappears every now and then. While we don’t feature the image often, the clown lives on in spirit… even after 30 years.
By Jason Cheung, University Pizzeria General Manager
6:30 AM —I get up and start what will turn out to be a long day. While he is having breakfast, I turn on the news and hear Tim Robinson on KING-5 gleefully exhort everyone who is watching, “Let’s bring Pagliacci to their knees.” I laugh a bit. I get my son to daycare and go to the doctor. Then back home to get ready to work. The whole time, my mind is racing. Did Mark (our Shift Leader) order enough dough from the Commissary? Did we prep enough? Did we prep too much? I’ve been on edge and worried all week and my staff can tell. We are going to have a GIGANTIC day. I want it to go as smooth as possible. We’ve estimated using 45 trays of dough (3 times our normal dough order) and I had Mark order 50 so that we hopefully have some proofed for the next day. We’ve portioned everything that we can and I’ve scheduled extra people all day to help keep things flowing smoothly.
12:15 PM — Arrive at the pizzeria. We are jammed. My prepper is in the back cutting lettuce. He is already planning to make more sauce and prep more mozzarella. I ask my dishwasher how things have been and he gives me a grin and says one word, “Crazy!”
12:17 PM — I enter the dining room. All I can hear is a low roar of people talking, eating and waiting to order. I notice one of my regulars sitting alone at a table. He grins at me. “Looks like it’s gonna be a busy one!” he says. He’s not kidding. I get into the kitchen where John, one of the District Managers, is cutting a pizza. Three cooks hurriedly make pizza behind him. I ask what will be my main question of the day: “Can I get you guys anything?” After I bring up more mushrooms and pineapple, I sneak out the front door to see how many people are in line. They spill over to Rite Aid next door. I (loudly) thank everyone for waiting and promise that we are going as fast as we can to get them in the door. I’m reminded of the Friday lunch lines at Salumi downtown. I go inside and check to see how the other pizzerias are doing. They are busy, but we are killing them as far as transactions go. Hoo Ra! Then back to clearing tables, running food to the kitchen and emptying the endlessly filling trash cans. Two people are working slice bar and it is all they can do to keep up with the line of people streaming in the door.
3:00 PM — The night crew begins arriving. I can’t believe that it is already 3. My prepper is cranking out mozz as fast as he can and doesn’t even blink when I ask him to make another batch of sauce and cut more Kalamatas. Bev, another District Manager, arrives and relieves John at the cut table.
5:00 PM — My prepper leaves. The whole night crew has arrived and we begin our shift change. Aaron from Kenmore (THANKS for staying) and Alan from the day shift stick around to help. The line does not look like it has moved all afternoon. Different faces yes, but the same line.
5:30 PM — I ask my dishwasher to prep more cheese. We’re running out. Audrey from the office arrives and immediately helps in the kitchen.
6:00 PM — Incredibly, it seems even more crowded. The line in front of the building is even longer. The back prep area is as busy as it was during the day. I start to realize that we’re gonna hit a 1,000 transactions, at least.
7:00 PM — Matt (the owner) arrives. After sweeping the dining room and clearing some tables, he is immediately tasked with the glamorous job of folding slice boxes. We are almost folding them to order. John starts prepping more cheese for the Agog. Unbelievably, we are able to get people on their breaks kind of on time.
8:00 PM — We realize that we are going to run out of dough. Someone makes a call and we get more from a delivery kitchen.
8:30 PM — John starts prepping more Kalamata olives for the Agog.
9:00 PM — Uh oh…We start running dangerously low on Roasted Garlic for the Agog. This is a problem, because it is not a quick thing to prep. I ask Matt if he could call and “ask” one of the other delivery kitchens to have some brought over. (I figure they are not going to tell him no, and they don’t.) We have some within 20 minutes. Whew.
11 PM — Officially closed, but there is still a line to the door and we still have pizza to sell.
11:15 PM — We (finally) close the doors and turn off the sign. My crew has performed like Spartan Warriors, but we are all spent. John has done me the favor of starting to count down the tills and as I head upstairs to finish them I see Matt, the owner of the company, on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor in the kitchen. Where’s the camera?
Midnight — Hooray. It’s my birthday.
12:30 AM — I’m still in the middle of the closing paperwork and the crew is finishing their closing duties. I go downstairs to check them out so they can go home. On a normal day I’d be locking the door after them now, but they’ll be here for another few minutes tonight.
12:40 AM — Matt, John and I talk about the day. We ended up doing over 1,400 transactions and used 71 trays of dough, which far exceeded what we had expected. We also beat the pants off of the other two Seattle Pizzerias. We all agree that it was a great, great day. They try to coax me out for a beer, but I still have some things to do around the pizzeria and I’m beat. I shoo them out the door and tell them to go to bed.
1:10 AM — Lock up and start heading for home. Make mental note to order a lot more dough for the 40th Anniversary.
2 AM — Crawl into bed and fall instantly asleep.
It’s hard to believe that we are turning 30 today. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we fired up our oven for the first time, tossed out our first dough ball and served our first slice on the Ave. Wow! Are we really 30? 1979 wasn’t really that long ago was it?
When talking about what to do for this major milestone we knew we had to do something to celebrate our crew. They embody everything you have come to know as the Pagliacci experience. That’s why you are seeing some of their faces on our pizza boxes. Each box size features different people. You may recognize a few of them from delivering pizza or greeting you at the counter.
Just recognizing our crew isn’t enough to celebrate turning 30. If it weren’t for all of you continuing to order Pagliacci, we would have never survived three decades in the competitive pizza industry. Obviously these are troubling economic times right now, so what better way to celebrate our anniversary than to extend a special promotion to all of you. Thus our 30-30-30 promotion was born. For our 30th anniversary we are giving everyone a 30% discount one pizza per order on the order over the next 30 days. That would be February 19 – March 20.
However that still isn’t enough to satisfy our anniversary party. So it’s slice madness at the pizzerias. For today only we are rolling back slices to what they were when we opened in 1979. That means a slice of cheese is only 85 cents. What you talkin’ bout Willis? That’s right. Slices for under a dollar. Also on the slice bar is pepperoni for 95 cents, Canadian bacon and pineapple for 95 cents and the AGOG Primo for $1.05. Wash it down with a fountain soda for only 60 cents. The slice madness will only happen today, but the slice celebration will continue with primo slice prices being reduced to our normal cheese slice price of $2.09 from February 20 – March 20.