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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021 2 months ago

Piesanos slices into Horizon West pizza scene

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The new pizzeria opened last week in Lakeside Village.
by: Chris Martucci Sports Editor

For some, the new Piesanos Stone Fired Pizza location in Horizon West is simply an interesting new place to try for dinner.

For General Manager Conor Ellis, it’s the culmination of a long road with the company.

Ellis, who now leads the Florida chain’s newest restaurant, started with Piesanos as a busser at its second Gainesville location, known as “Pie 2,” while he was a student at the University of Florida. From there, he also worked in carryout, bartending and serving before ultimately being tapped to run the Horizon West location.

Ellis said the company’s culture of excellence and respect has kept him around for six years.

“(The owners) treat their people right,” he said. “They invest in them, they trust them, they invest in training, which is not cheap. They are willing to make that investment in us, which is greatly appreciated.”

The Horizon West location is Piesanos’ eighth restaurant. The Gainesville-based chain also operates locations in Ocala, Clermont and The Villages.

Piesanos is a family-style restaurant with a full bar that accompanies parties of all sizes. The menu offers a variety of stone-fired pizzas, pastas, calzones, and even burgers and chicken for those not in the mood for anything Italian.

Ellis said Piesanos strives to be more than just the average pizzeria by making sure its customer service is high-end and the food is high quality. The restaurant hopes to offer an “at-home feeling” that guests feel when they visit. All food is made in-house, he said.

“We don’t like the words ‘good’ or ‘all right,’ because we feel that anybody can do a good job,” Ellis said. “It takes a lot of additional effort to do a great job, and that is what we’re always striving for is a great dining experience from beginning to end.” 

Piesanos started in 2009 as a collaboration between Joe and Rebecca Mills, Michael and Melissa Akey, and Laure Young. The Millses had previously owned Italian Gator Pizza by the Slice, another pizza store they opened in 2000 in Gainesville. Michael Akey focused on the front of the restaurant, while Joe Mills managed the food and made sure it maintained the quality they desired.

The culture they maintain emphasizes that everybody has a hand in making the restaurant go. No job is beneath anyone — not even the managers. 

“Everybody is willing to do any job necessary to make sure that the guest has a great experience,” Ellis said. “The managers are bussing tables, they’re taking orders … anything that needs to be done. They wear all hats.” 

This commitment to going the extra mile for guests is part of what Ellis says separates them from the other pizza chains.

Piesanos partners with Uber Eats and DoorDash, along with their usual takeout, which Ellis said is about 40% to 45% of its business.

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