Vincent Tacconelli, Jr. says the new Westmont location represents decades of hard work for his family’s storied pizza business, as well as the doorway to its future.
By Matt Skoufalos | February 6, 2023
In the former David Wilson Men’s Shop at 164 Haddon Avenue, Vincent Tacconelli, Jr., is cementing the infrastructure that will serve as the next cornerstone of his family’s legacy.
Just as his great-grandfather Giovanni built a generational pizza business out of a brick oven in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, Vincent, Jr. is forging his own future in the Westmont section of Haddon Township.
He’s still using the same, 77-year-old pizza recipe that built a brand on two sides of the Delaware River; still relying on brick oven decks to deliver its signature taste.
But in his Westmont kitchen, Tacconelli, Jr. is also employing 21st-century technology that would have turned his great-grandsire’s head.
As a chef consultant for specialty restaurant manufacturer Rosito Bisani, he’s working with high-end equipment — gelato and espresso machines, a pasta extruder, and a cheese grinder — that will allow him to expand his menu offerings.
Plates like pork ragu over rigatoni, gnocchi campanelle with pesto or pancetta gorgonzola, or bucatini Amatriciana with guanciale and Grana Padano, now feature fresh, house-made pastas.
The show-stopper, however, is a burnished stainless-steel, rotating Morello Forni gas oven, from which will emerge oven-baked appetizers, like stuffed Anaheim peppers with provolone and prosciutto; or shrimp-and-ricotta filled cannelloni, served over seafood bisque with sun-dried tomatoes and pecorino romano.
For as much as the new setup in Westmont inspired its expanded menu, Tacconelli, Jr. said his focus on consistently delivering the family’s signature, thin-crust pizza has never wavered.
“I am Tacconelli through and through,” he said; “pizza is what we always do.
“Everything else is a branch of my creativity to have fun.
Tacconelli, Jr. describes his pizza recipe as “Americanized,” rather than New York- or Neapolitan-style.
The dough is made fresh daily, proven for seven hours, and cooked well-done in an open-flame, wood oven.
Of about five base pizzas — red, white, marinara, provolone, and formaggio trio — the most popular is a white pie with chopped spinach, tomato, black pepper, salt, and garlic, although customers are encouraged to build their own combinations.
Although Tacconelli, Jr. wouldn’t estimate exactly how many pizzas his dual Wood Stone brick ovens can crank out in an evening, he did say customers wouldn’t have to reserve their dough at his locations, as they have historically done at the family’s Philadelphia pizzeria.
“In Philly, their oven is oil-based,” he said. “That oven fires all day, and then they kill it before service, and run on the ambient heat of the bricks in the oven. When they start, a pie cooks really fast, and then later in the day, it cools, and it’s slowed down.
“One of the beautiful things about these [Wood Stone] ovens is how thick this slab of brick is, because it maintains its heat,” Tacconelli, Jr. said.
“We can cook all night because the brick isn’t cooling down.
“That’s why our slogan here is, ‘We got dough,’” he said.
Bringing in those 10,000-pound ovens meant taking off the back corner of the building to load them into the space, Tacconelli, Jr. said; however, the remodeling allowed for the addition of a new loading bay that makes it easier to bring a variety of products in and out of the shop.
On the whole, redesigning the former David Wilson Men’s Shop into a family restaurant turned on creating the open kitchen that would showcase the new equipment. Vince Jr.’s wife, Jessica, who runs the front-of-house operations for the business, helped select the dining room décor, along with his father, Vince Sr., and mother, Doris.
Although David Wilson himself died before he could see the transformation completed, Tacconelli’s pays homage to his legacy by hanging the antique wooden sign from his former business in its dining room.
“[They were] a family business who wanted to sell to a family business,” Tacconelli, Jr. said. “As soon as [David] saw us, and we saw him, we were done. I think the building found us.”
In the Westmont location, Tacconelli, Jr. sees similarities to his Maple Shade pizzeria: a comfortable setting for family dining on a main commercial corridor. In Haddon Township, however, he foresees a chance to create the next cornerstone of a legacy that has already spanned five generations.
“I’m already building for my son,” Tacconelli, Jr. said.
“I have four generations behind me really building up the name; I think it’s insulting to not push ahead.
“Not many people have the opportunity I’ve had to have a name behind me; parents who support me financially, emotionally,” he said.
“I feel super-blessed,” Tacconelli, Jr. said.
“I feel like my grandparents are looking down on me, proud of what we’re doing.
“Where we’re going to be in 10 to 20 years — a food truck? a wedding venue? — I don’t know, but Haddon Township and Maple Shade will be here,” he said.
Tacconelli’s Pizzeria is located at 164 Haddon Avenue in Haddon Township. The restaurant is open from 4 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and from 3 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The business is cash-only and BYO. For more information, call 856-858-7278, or visit Tacconellipizza.com.
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