Little Italy opens soon in downtown Wenatchee

Little Italy brings authentic New York style Italian pizza to Wenatchee

Story and photos by Gary Bégin

Anyone who hails from the East Coast has most likely been “jonesing” for authentic New York style pizza, calzone, Stromboli, etc.

Owner and pizza master Jeff Graf has been running pizzeria shops for more than three decades beginning in his former home of Rockland County, New York, just north of the Big Apple.

Although he isn’t Italian, anyone growing up in New York’s metro area has certainly been exposed to the area’s famous pizza and especially Sicilian-style pizza, which is thick, square and thoroughly delectable. It is also nearly impossible to find 3,000 miles away from NYC that actually tastes like “back home.”

Graf, the 66-year-old Irish-German American, states he was about to lease space in the Wenatchee Valley Mall in East Wenatchee, but came to realize he’d have much greater expense and work to invest just to get the space opening within a few months.

That was not the case with Graf’s final choice, the former bottom floor and lobby of the Cascadian Hotel in downtown Wenatchee. The former glory of the 1920s-1950s era, the Cascadian now features a mishmash of residential and retail space.

Graf chose the spot because it was the former home of Om Cooking Thai and Korean restaurant*, which ceased operation last spring as the COVID-19 pandemic crashed revenues for many area restaurants.

Thus, Graf inherited a walk-in cooler, a 40-foot bar, cooking and other industry kitchen equipment and items required by any restaurant under health and zoning regulations, saving him several thousands of dollars.

He has been religiously cleaning the place, redecorating and purchasing new equipment such as pizza ovens, since he took over the lease several months ago.

“We are planning on opening the first week of January,” said Graf.

Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

“We will be specializing in N.Y. style pizza by the slice, including Sicilian and white pizza. The menu will also include, calzone, Stromboli, meatball hero, chicken parmigiana and a cold Italian sub. We will also have Philly cheese steak sandwiches, wings, three types of salads and probably a pasta salad. Italian deserts and other pastries will also be included on the menu. Lasagna and ziti will be the pasta dishes we are planning to have. The idea is to have everything packaged to take out, but seating is available for people who want to eat in. The idea is a “grab and go” type restaurant with chips, snacks, ice cream etcetera also available. Bottled and canned beer along with beer on tap and wine will also be available in bottles to take out,” Graf said.

“We decided to open a pizzeria that sells pizza by the slice. It is more like a “grab and go,” because there is no other type of restaurant in the area that offers this type of format,” he said.

“I have 57 years in the pizza, food and beverage field and have owned and or managed pizzerias in New York, North Carolina and Florida. I look forward to bringing a little bit of New York style pizza and other dishes to the Wenatchee Valley,” Graf said.

*Serving Thai and Korean food, Om Cooking is now reopened and operating at 749 Riverside Dr. in Wenatchee near the Columbia River. See article in January WBJ. For more information: https://www.restaurantji.com/wa/wenatchee/om-cooking-/

**Little Italy originated in the 1880s, when immigrants from primarily, but not exclusively, Naples and Sicily arrived in New York City and settled the area. Mulberry Street was named after the plants that thrived in the area and it became the main street of Little Italy.

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