• Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Based in Beverly Hills, Mulberry Street Pizza has been delighting diners with its New York style pizza since 1991. The brand recently expanded into Las Vegas and may soon be licensed.

Richie Palmer and Mike Tyson at his Las Vegas location. Provided.

Richie Palmer has been in the hospitality industry for a long time. His pizza brand, Mulberry Street Pizzeria, has five total units — four in LA and one in Las Vegas — and has become the toast of the city. But he didn’t start with pizza.

Instead, at the tender age of 14, he got his teeth out at a steakhouse in the Bronx, New York. It wasn’t long before he started out as a chef and had dreams of opening a pizzeria in the vacant shop across from a coffee shop he frequented.

That unit, which housed a defunct coal oven, became his and he opened Modern Pizzeria in 1987 using his mother’s marinara recipe. He also owned a club and business was good.

But Palmer was seeking sunshine and visiting a West Coast friend who owned a shop in the heart of Beverly Hills. Loving the area, Palmer sold his New York businesses and sought a fresh start in California. Looking for a new place to open a restaurant, he spent his last penny to open Mulberry Street Pizza in Beverly Hills in 1991.

“LA is a big city where you can see and be seen, and I wanted to have the counter that I copied from Woolworth in New York and a few other places,” Palmer said, “and we have about 10, 12 tables anywhere .”

Regular customers walk and order at the cash register, while tourists tend to sit down at a table to order. “It’s very casual and very spontaneous,” adds Palmer.

Provided.

The menu

When it comes to pizza, the easy margherita-style cheese reigns supreme, followed by pepperoni and an eggplant parmesan pizza. That goes for the California locations, where in Las Vegas, a chicken and parmesan pizza ranks third. “We invented the eggplant parmesan pizza out here,” Palmer explains. “We have sliced ​​aubergines that we fry every day and it’s an aubergine, tomato and basil pizza.

The pizza is made on a thin New York crust, just like Palmer made it in the Bronx and just like he ate it growing up. It’s a thin and crispy crust. The dough is made and brought in offsite at a friend’s factory. “He makes my recipe for me,” Palmer said, adding to the consistency across the brand.

Everything else is homemade every day, like the marinara, which takes six hours to cook. The menu features eggplant and chicken parmesan, of course, but also spaghetti, rigatoni and ravioli.

“It’s easy and quick, and we’re doing everything the best we can,” Palmer explained. “So far so good. … Everything is exactly the same. There is no variation, that is part of the secret of success.”

The inside of a Mulberry Street Pizza location. Provided.

operations

This includes using the same Blodgett deck ovens with bricks at each location.

He used to use a brick oven that had been converted to gas in New York City, so Palmer said it was easy to move to California and source multiple copies of the same oven. “After using a coal oven that was converted to gas and having ‘sweet spots,’ it was very easy” to find pizzaiolos for Mulberry Street Pizza, Palmer said. “I said, ‘Forget everything you know about making pizza. I’ll show you how it’s done.’ And again it’s just continuity, it’s staying with it, it’s dedicating the attention and daily work to the dough, the product.

“And it took me a minute to do it. I’m not going to say straight out of the gate, we did it.”

When a new pizzaiolo comes in, he or she goes through rigorous training for several months before being put on the ovens alone.

Around 80% of sales are based on pizza.

Las Vegas serves alcohol, but LA has soft drinks and iced tea. It’s family-friendly, and Palmer wanted Mulberry Street Pizza to be a kid-friendly place.

Dedication to the product sets Mulberry Street Pizza apart from the competition. A lifetime of pizza eating on both coasts has trained Palmer to recognize good pizza and to make his own pizza places stand out.

While many restaurants still feel the lack of work, Palmer describes himself as a “lucky guy” as he has a crew of 50 to 60 employees, some of whom have been with him since day one. “If you don’t take care of your people, you’re done,” Palmer explained. “I have no problem with attitude. … I take care of them, I pay them well, they get benefits and everyone is happy. People actually come to me for jobs and in this climate that we live in, that’s quite a statement.”

Palmer’s biggest challenge is the cost of goods. Some places in Beverly Hills cost $75 for a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and $100 for fish in others. He has raised his prices to compensate for just over two years.

“Rent in Beverly Hills is higher than rent in Des Moines or Pittsburgh,” Palmer said. “It’s a bit more expensive, but we use the best products.”

future growth

Palmer wants to open a few more stores of his own and is considering licensing his name and product. However, he doesn’t want to do a franchise because it’s “too detailed and difficult,” he said. “I can do business that will license the name, which is a lot easier.

“People just want to make a living these days. You don’t care about the product. That’s why the spots don’t last long. … I would say 95% is mismanagement.”

At this point in his life, he prefers to send employees who know the brand inside out to open locations. He’s not worried about losing control of the brand when licensing because he’s already tested it in Las Vegas — he let two of his people stay and run the business there, and now it’s running like a machine. “Again, if you just focus and focus and someone gives you the guidelines to go by, you really can’t screw it up as long as you have a good location. And if I didn’t like the location, I wouldn’t take the deal,” Palmer added.

Mandy Wolf Detwiler is Editor-in-Chief for Networld Media Group and Site Editor for PizzaMarketplace.com and QSRweb.com. She has over 20 years of experience in food, people and places.

An award-winning print journalist, Mandy brings more than 20 years of experience to the Networld Media Group. She has spent almost two decades covering the pizza industry, from independent pizzerias to multi-unit chains and every size company in between. Mandy has been featured on the Food Network and has won numerous awards for her coverage of the restaurant industry. She has an insatiable hunger to learn and can tell you where to find the best bits in the country, having traveled and eaten pizza for a living for 15 years.

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