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  • Writer's pictureDiana McDaniel Hampo

The Audacity of Deluca's

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Once upon a time, a few years ago, a short man with dangerous charm and a heavy Brooklyn accent moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

This unique fellow decided to open a pizzeria on Park Avenue. It's a lovely and growing neighborhood now, but back then it was really struggling to find it's way to a rebirth.

So, why would this guy open a restaurant selling the most expensive pizza Hot Springs had ever ever seen, in the oldest neighborhood in town?

But things got even stranger. We were all confused when Deluca's pizzas came to our table with such thin crusts, sometimes burned in spots! BURNED!! And the wait staff didn't apologize. The entire food community of Hot Springs looked at each other with arched eyebrows and asked "Is it supposed to be this way?"

There was only one size of pizza to choose from at Deluca's, only one kind of crust. And often times these big thin pies arrived with fresh greens on top, sometimes mountains of leaves...on a pizza! Go figure ."Is it a salad or a pizza?" was so overused.

But here's the kicker, the thing that left me scratching my head. Sometimes, we got to Deluca's on Park Avenue, home of exotic and expensive pizzas...and they turned us away! "Sorry, we're out of dough." WTH!!! You're turning me down?

How in the world did this guy, Anthony Valinoti, think this was going to work? What's wrong with him?

In the beginning, people actually argued over Deluca's. Was it too expensive ? (I had that animated conversation with my boss). Is the crust a little better when it's burned just a touch? Those fresh cheeses he uses and the raw basil, it's actually awesome! Well, I guess you better learn to call ahead so they have enough pizza dough for us.

Then, something started to shift. The personality of owner Anthony Valinoti washed over Hot Springs like a tsunami. He was yelling and banging around in the kitchen, then he was at your table, hugging and kissing (often times on the lips). Sometimes when he left, you realized you had a white flour hand print on your butt.

And then there's the pizza. Hot Springs, then Arkansas, then the United States started to understand, started to get it. The pizza at Deluca's Pizzeria was more expensive than we were accustomed to because of the ingredients....they were so different, fresh, locally sourced and exquisite.

Sometimes, I want a big thick delicious pizza for a football game and Rocky's is my #1 got to (wings and sandwiches too). But sometimes I need a wild taste of Naples, Italy via Brooklyn with strange ingredients I don't fully understand. And sometimes I just want a slice and a hug from Anthony, the tsunami.

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