First they were in Springfield all those years ago. Then they were reborn in Westfield. Now Clemenza’s Brick Oven Pizza’s newest home is in West Springfield, where they opened their doors in the spring of 2019.
Their specialty is brick oven pizza, and owner Anthony Martone said they were always “ahead of the rest.”
“My parents opened Clemenza’s in 1989 on Page Boulevard in Springfield, where they offered brick oven pizza for about 12 years. They were the first to bring the specialty to Western Massachusetts, well before Bertucci’s came to town,” Martone said.
“I still use their original recipes, but I’ve tweaked them a bit. My father’s family was from Calabria and my mother’s family was from Benevito in Italy,” he added.
Martone got his taste for the restaurant business at the young age of 10 while working in his parents’ restaurant in Springfield.
“I started making pizza boxes, then moved to dishwasher and finally to making the pizzas and serving customers. It’s a good thing I learned those skills, because when I moved to New York City to attend CUNY (City University of New York) where I majored in political communications, I could always get a job in a restaurant to pay my rent,” he said.
But after 10 years in New York City working as a waiter, Martone wanted more - he wanted to run his own restaurant, but knew that he couldn’t afford the expense of purchasing any property in the city. So, as Martone put it, “I came full circle and returned home,” where a restaurant was waiting for him.
“My dad had a restaurant in Huntington called the Rapids that had just been sitting there for years, and I knew that would be a good starting point for myself,” he said about leaving the big city behind in 2004.
Nearly a decade after running the Rapids, Martone was ready for another move.
“I loved what I was doing, but the Rapids was in a rural setting and I wanted to be around more people, including my family who were an hour away. Commuting back and forth to work every day I would pass this spot on a corner in Westfield. It reminded me of where I lived in Queens back in New York. I noticed it had a ‘For Rent’ sign in the window and decided to go in and take a look. And that’s where I opened Clemenza’s back in 2013 because I was ready to get back into serving Italian food,” he said.
Martone moved his operation to West Springfield two years ago for a variety of reasons.
“I wanted a location with additional parking, one that was more central because I wanted to begin focusing on using delivery apps as another alternative for my customers. It also had an outdoor patio and I just couldn’t believe that no restaurant had every taken the space with the opportunity it provided for outdoor dining,” he said.
As for Clemenz’a house specialty - the crispy, smoky, flavor-filled, baked-to-perfection wood fired pies - diners (dine in our takeout) can choose from a list of 17 specialty pizzas with such inspired titles as The Idaho, with sliced potatoes and all the trimmings; The Antipasto, which needs no description; and Brussel Sprout with love ’em or hate ’em roasted Brussel sprouts, goat cheese, prosciutto, and a balsamic glaze.
A reminder on their menu in case you think your pizza was left in too long and burnt in the process: “The brick oven reaches temps of up to 900 degrees. Some pizzas may be dark around the edges, due to the open flame baking method.”
You can also have your pizza made the way you like it with nearly 30 toppings to choose from. There is even a choice of sauce including crushed tomato, oil and garlic, white, pesto, or pink cream.
“In addition to our thin crust we also offer a gluten-free or cauliflower crust which is low-carb and becoming very popular with customers who are watching their weight,” Martone said.
He also noted their white pizza is “really good” and that their Brussel sprout pizza is “one of our most popular.”
Pasta lovers can have their full of two favorite dishes which need no description - cheese and lobster ravioli - and three that do. Rigatoni Clemenza is labeled as “spicy” in capital letters for those who like “a little bite” to what they are eating with crushed tomatoes, fresh garlic, crushed red peppers, Prosciutto, black olives and Parmesan. RBC takes sauteed chicken, broccoli, fresh garlic, and a light cream sauce and tosses it all with rigatoni and Parmesan. And last, but certainly not least, is Chicken Florentine Cannelloni - a tasty mix of a grilled chicken breast and spinach blended with three cheeses and garlic wrapped in egg pasta, baked in pink cream sauce and topped with Provolone.
“The RBC is the original recipe from Page Boulevard and it was so popular that I always say it put me through college,” Martone said.
But it is not just their brick oven pizzas that make Clemenza’s menu so special and popular with customers - it is also their pressed sandwiches.
“People love them. It’s all about the bread. We make the sandwich with a French batard bread, then finish it off using a panini press,” Martone said.
Served with French fries or fresh greens, there are 10 pressed sandwiches to tickle your tastebuds, including pesto chicken, Italian grilled cheese, melted meatball, eggplant, and a variety of other taste-tempting concoctions.
Other offerings at the “friendly, cozy and comfortable” restaurant as Martone refers to it include an array of salads and appetizers.
“Our favorite appetizer with customers is our Tuscan chicken wings…..it’s all about the dry rub that we have shipped to us direct from a farm, and there a sweetness and a little spice to the taste,” Martone said.
The restaurant also has a liquor license and diners can wash down their meals with a cold beer, fine wine, or one of the many sangrias they offer throughout the year.
Similar to many restaurants, Martone has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “the perfect storm” when it came to his business.
“Even before the coronavirus hit, I had started offering delivery apps for customers to take advantage of,” he said about a business for many restaurants that quickly turned to takeout and delivery to survive.
“I set up tents outside in the summer and changed the menu up a bit. This was a time to think outside the box and to stay current and open. I believe one of the reasons for our success was the fact that we stayed open every day…..seven days and seven nights….and people didn’t have to wonder if we were open or what days,” Martone added.
With 2021 just begun, Martone is on an exciting new adventure aimed at sweet tooths that he has appropriately called Westside Sweets.
“The idea was just born….it’s still in its infancy….as a way to generate additional revenue during COVID-19. The goal is to use delivery apps. I haven’t advertised it anywhere yet, not even on our website, and the desserts are selling like crazy. That tells me a lot about my concept, which I’m going to focus on in the coming months,” Martone said.
Sold by the piece, Martone noted he makes most of the 10 cakes, four pies, and four cheesecakes in house. And he adds his own twist to those sweets that he brings in from other sources.
“Our tiramisu cake is just like tiramisu, but the mixture is inside the cake. People tell me that they like it better than regular tiramisu because there is more substance to it. We also have a cannoli pie that is not in a shell, but a pie crust. It’s not super sweet and you can eat more. And our lemon cream cake and Reese’s peanut butter pie are phenomenal,” Martone said.
Martone also brings some different culinary delights to The Big E every year. He runs several food concessions, including a Sangria Shack and another that serves up deep-fried delights such as Oreos and other treats that fairgoers love to try.
Clemenza’s is located on 816 Westfield St. in West Springfield. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.
DoorDash and Grubhub are available for those who want the convenience of staying in the comforts of their homes and ordering online for delivery. You can also find the Westside Sweets menu on the apps.
For more information, visit clemenzasbrickovenpizza.com
or call 413-417-7544
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