After the sudden closure of Bellini’s in September, the pizzeria on the corner of 189th and Hughes Avenue known for its specialty slices, this September, Nike’s Pizza is now open for business in the same space.
Nike Pllumbaj is the man behind Nike’s Pizza, and he is also the uncle of former Bellini’s owner Al Bellini. Nike’s chef George Lozano noted that around “two or three months ago,” the two men agreed to swap ownership of the pizzeria once Bellini moved to California.
For students, however, the restaurant’s departure was abrupt and unexplained. When its familiar red awnings came down, many worried that Bellini’s might be gone forever.
“We were freaked out,” said Alexandra Bruno, GSB ’15, “we thought they weren’t … coming back.”
Fortunately, that is not the case. With Bellini living on the West Coast, Pllumbaj is now the restaurant’s official owner, and a key dining option in Belmont appears be safe. For many students, Bellini’s had been the perfect complement to the neighborhood’s nightlife.
“It was always a great late night pizza place to go to, and everyone kind of hung out here,” said Mike Meehan, FCRH ’14.
However, Nike’s is not a carbon copy of Bellini’s. Lower prices and new menu items are two of the biggest changes awaiting hungry students at the new restaurant. The price for a pasta slice, one of the former pizzeria’s best-known offerings, has been reduced from $4.50 to $4.00, for example. Drink prices have also been reduced, with a can of soda costing $1 instead of the usual $1.50. Pllumbaj has also added a new special: order one full pie, and he will throw in a free drink.
Once he took over, Pllumbaj debuted a number of new menu items at the pizzeria. These include a whole roster of never-before-seen specialty slices, such as the chicken, tomatoes and onions slice; the salad slice; and the Sicilian slice. For those looking for something a little different, he is also branched out from pizza to include gyros.
Most students agree that Nike’s has so far kept up the standard of quality food, for which Bellini’s was known.
“I didn’t notice much of a difference,” said Christina Errichiello, FCRH ’15.
“Thankfully the food seems the same,” noted Meehan. “The quality is still there.”
Some said that with the new changes in the menu, Nike’s is even a step above Bellini’s in terms of quality. Bruno is particularly fond of the new incarnation of one specialty slice.
“The pasta slice is a new favorite,” she remarked. “I didn’t like it at all [at Bellini’s], but I had it when it changed over and I liked it a lot.”
She said the old pasta slice had too much sauce, but the Nike’s version leaves out the sauce and has the perfect amount of cheese.
“It kind of tastes like mac and cheese,” she said.
According to Pllumbaj, these reactions are by no means unusual. He has reported “no change” in business since he took over the restaurant, and he points out that the usual Bellini’s customers have continued to patronize the pizzeria.
Looking forward, he hopes to attract even more students by offering beer and wine along with pizza. Lozano states that Nike’s has already acquired a liquor license, and that he plans to start selling beer and wine in about a month. He and Pllumbaj are hopeful that this will keep people walking through their door.
“I think with the beer, they’re going to come,” said Lozano.
With its revamped menu and continued support from Fordham students, Plumbaj may just prove that the old pizza joint can still learn some new tricks.