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Ernesto’s on Madison

September 4, 2014

By Vanessa Langdon

The new pizza shop at 850 Madison Ave. has a long history starting with its namesake-Ernesto Stacchini.

The restaurant opened its doors in Albany for the first time just last month but the original Ernesto’s was initially unveiled on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue back in 1949.

The Ernesto’s in the Pine Hills has replaced the “I Love New York” Pizzeria. Ernesto Stacchini’s grandchildren, siblings Mario Vredenburg, 45, and Daniella Stacchini, 32, opened  the neighborhood shop two weeks ago.

Havzi Ipek owns the building that houses Ernesto’s according to City of Albany tax assessment records. Ipek was contacted to comment about the new business but did not return phone calls.

Ernesto’s located at 850 Madison Ave. (Vanessa Langdon)

Ernesto’s located at 850 Madison Ave. (Vanessa Langdon)

Locating the latest Ernesto’s on another  Madison Avenue was a coincidence for the siblings who were attracted by the heavy student traffic on the street.  The restauranteurs see themselves offering “a new alternative” to the food choices on the strip, with their menu serving home cooking.

While Vredenburg and Stacchini are co-owners, Vredenburg does the cooking and Stacchini takes care of the aesthetics like personally painting their trademark “sweet, savoury, sensational” as a border inside the small and homey space.

“We were going to keep the ‘I Love’ name but then we wanted to honor Ernesto,” said Vredenberg. “It was meant to be.”

The two have been cooking since about age two, but this is their first business endeavor together.

Both Stacchini and Vredenburg were born in New Jersey but Stacchini most recently lived in the Republic of San Marino a small island near Italy,

“I moved here a month ago with the intent of starting the business. It all started because I love cooking. We have a big kitchen passion,” said Stacchini.

The family has its roots in the Republic of San Marino, where Stacchini had been living for years, Vredenburg relocated to Troy from New Jersey. Both the Italian flag and the little known flag of San Marino wave outside  the restaurant.

Vredenburg said that his grandfather “was the very first person to immigrate to the United States from San Marino the summer of 1937.” There is a bust of the late Ernesto in San Marino, “we’re very proud to come from San Marino because there are only 10,000 citizens,” said Vredenburg.

The pair is not worried about any competition, they have complete faith in Vredenburg and their secret family recipes-like the marinara sauce, and that they were able to secure Bella Napolli’s head baker, Stan VanFonda.

“I worked there for 20 years but I worked nights, 9 at night to 7 in the morning and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I became the manager three days after I started work there.”  So Vanfonda took his secret dough recipe with him to Ernesto’s and no longer has to work the night shift.

In addition to their secret recipes Vredenburg and Stacchini have taken great measures to befriend their neighbors, and Stacchini said:  “we’re not trying to double what they’re making.”

Ernesto’s employee Barbie Nunnally cuts and boxes pizza. (Vanessa Langdon)

Ernesto’s employee Barbie Nunnally cuts and boxes pizza. (Vanessa Langdon)

To set themselves apart they have unique menu items like fried butter and bloomin onions, food typically associated with the New York State Fair. They are also trying out quirky ways to get customers in the door, they have a ‘pull over pizza’ that allows customers to come into the restaurant 24 hours after receiving an Albany Police ticket and get two free slices of cheese pizza.

They do have more than the typical pizza shop and their goal is not to just “sell slices for a buck,” said Vredenburg, “we restricted our ads to local newspapers because the students are a significant part of our business but we’ll do catering to be more involved in the community.” Stacchini said that people have already asked about getting events catered for Christmas and their goal is to have the catering end running by the holiday.

The menu includes vegan pizza and a case full of daily specials.

Stacchini would recommend people try the Italian sausage piandi, or Italian flat bread made with olive oil, “it’s to die for. It’s refreshing and tasty.”

Daniella Stacchini holds a photo of her grandfather Ernesto Stacchini behind his original counter on Madison Ave in New York City. (Vanessa Langdon)

Daniella Stacchini holds a photo of her grandfather Ernesto Stacchini behind his original counter on Madison Ave in New York City. (Vanessa Langdon)

Other Madison Ave businesses have had good experiences with Ernesto’s as well. Fare Gujjar, 30, an employee of Madison Mart at 870 Madison Ave. said “they’re nice people. If they stay open they’ll make money.” Ruby’s employee Gigi Yeung said, “I like that place, it was really good.”

While only opened 13 days Ernesto’s has made a lot of a fans from the UPS delivery man who gets a free slice of pizza every time he makes a delivery to employee Barbie Nunnally’s 2-year-old daughter who “has to have a slice of cheese pizza before I leave everyday.” Vredenburg and Stacchini are just happy to be in the neighborhood and Stacchini wants to feed people “homemade goodness.” -30-

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