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Bartering-famous Unregular Pizza to debut third NYC location

“I used to live on that same street during the pandemic. Three years later, I go back to the same street but with a restaurant,” he said. “That’s where I was making pizza at home in my apartment and I began bartering the pizza for other things.”


Tradio participants at a radio station

When not in Rome, but in New York City, what did Gabriele Lamonaca decide to do? Make pizza. Or rather, Unregular Pizza.


The Rome native’s dream of translating his hometown’s street food into a successful New York pizza business is certainly on track, with Unregular’s third Manhattan location opening its doors this Friday.


Located at 14 E. 37th St., a stone’s throw from the Empire State Building, and just five blocks from Grand Central Terminal, this new pizza boîte follows two successful high-profile locations downtown: one in Essex Market and one in Union Square. Edging slightly uptown for the next location is a natural step, Lamonaca tells The Post.


“We saw an increase in the office crowd — slowly, but they have come back,” Lamonaca said. “So the idea of expanding into Midtown made sense. We can take advantage of the catering opportunities, too,” he added of supplying office meetings and parties.


An established residential neighborhood nearby doesn’t hurt either.


“Between the office workers, tourists and the residents in Murray Hill, this location looked right.”


Setting up on East 37th Street actually brings Lamonaca full circle to the beginnings of Unregular Pizza, named for its oblongness and lack of uniformity — and an ironic play on Lamonaca’s not-so-broken English.


“I used to live on that same street during the pandemic. Three years later, I go back to the same street but with a restaurant,” he said. “That’s where I was making pizza at home in my apartment and I began bartering the pizza for other things.”


Indeed, bartering pizza. As reported by The Post, after sharing photos of his luscious home-cooked pizzas on Instagram, salivating housebound New Yorkers wanted a bite. Lamonaca offered pizzas in exchange for other dishes, drinks or experiences.


“It caught fire. It grew and grew,” Lamonaca said.


The zenith of the bartering was when the staff at the Maritime Hotel on West 16th Street offered him the penthouse suite for a night in exchange for pizza. By then, in spring 2021, he had partnered with Salvatore Gagliardo, a Sicilian pastry chef and master pizzaiolo, and they were about to open their first restaurant, the one in Union Square. They threw an opening party in the hotel suite.


Opening up shop on a high-profile block in Union Square was way above their budget — under normal circumstances, that is. But with landlords begging for tenants, they got a deal they could live with.


“As a first store for a company with no proven record or big finances, that location was impossible normally. It’s such a prime location,” said Lamonaca. “Landlords want a chain business and security. But the pandemic opened up possibilities.


Not only is the pizza shape irregular, but Lamonaca wanted to turn the idea of what a pizza parlor looked like on its head — so, no red gingham for starters.


“We went for something completely different. We wanted different colors. No red and white. We wanted a ‘90s vibe and a big splash of color that was nothing to do with a pizzeria, but just a happy place.”


He’s not talking grunge, more the 1980s reviving late ’90s into the early 2000s: Bright yellow pizza boxes are splashed with cardinal-colored geometric shapes that are revisited in the general decor, and a turquoise boombox plays what Lamonaca calls “‘90s music.”


Think: Boy bands, Britney, and Blink 182, “It’s nostalgic for us, that’s when we were growing up,” he said.


“The theme is basically the same, the same identity in each,” he said of the mini pizza chain. “But the way we convert it is different for each location. The Essex Market is a booth and very small. But we always have our logo in neon lighting, that’s our signature.”


The menu is consistent, too, and centers on Roman-style pizza — “It is cooked in a pan and the dough is fermented for about 72 hours,” Lamonaca said. “That makes it crispier, lighter and more easy to digest. And then we cram it with toppings.” And also on pasta bricks, which are cooked pasta with sauces fried and formed into cakes, a traditional Italian way to use pasta left over from dinner and turn it into lunch.


Lamonaca, a New York resident for the past 15 years, says he’s upping the pizza game in a city that prides itself on the slice, and hopes to take Unregular Pizza to every neighborhood.


“I am in love with New York,” he said. “People eat pizza here at any time of the day. The city has great pizza culture. We hope to expand in New York a bit more and then to other cities. But this is a huge city and every neighborhood has its own life. There’s a lot of room to expand here first.”


And for anyone who wants to barter, just check online for days and times.


“People can sign up to barter online and offer any food, drink, or experience,” Lamonaca said. “You can barter anything.”


As long as it’s legal.


“Oh yes,” he laughed, “as long as it’s legal.”

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