Hurricane Sandy took a bite out of a soon-to-open Ditmas Park pizzeria — but a pizzaiolo from the other side of the borough is offering up the ingredients for a quick recovery.
The much-anticipated Church Avenue pie joint Wheated was gearing up for a January debut until the storm submerged a storage unit rented by pizza slinger David Sheridan, destroying two costly ovens from Italy.
“The sad thing for my situation is I put the stuff in the storage unit in order to protect it from the construction scene at the restaurant,” said Sheridan, who made a name for himself by hosting wildly popular pizza parties using a wood-burning oven in his backyard in Gravesend.
Replacing the ovens will likely cost between $20,000 and $30,000 — but thankfully Greenpoint pizza legend Paul “Paulie Gee” Giannone decided to help out and prove that slice guys are nice guys.
Giannone — who mentored Sheridan as part of an apprenticeship — started passing out cards with his menus informing diners that if they donate $25 to an “oven fund” for Sheridan, they’ll get a free “Regina” pie, a margherita spin-off with tomato sauce, fior di latte, pecorino, and basil.
“David is going along the same path that I went on,” said Giannone, who also gained acclaim slinging pies from his backyard while working an IT job, before making a career shift to professional pizza-making. “I imagined if something like that happened, what would have happened to my dream?”
Giannone announced the aid plan on the pizza blog Slice — and Sheridan turned to the site to say thanks.
“Paulie, that is amazingly awesome of you to do this for us,” Sheridan wrote on the website’s comments section.
Sheridan says the storm will push Wheated’s opening back until February, and he claims he’s still stinging from the fact his insurance company denied to cover him for the damage, and that he was ineligible to take part in a $10 million emergency loan program for small businesses offered by Goldman Sachs and the city at one percent because his eatery does not have a 2011 tax return.
“People in my situation are not given the same priority as people who were directly affected,” said Sheridan, who is now considering a Small Business Administration loan. “I understand some of that, but we represent the creation of jobs, and I think it would behoove the government to acknowledge businesses like myself that are in the process of opening.”
To recover after the storm, Sheridan followed in the steps of other hurricane-slammed businesses such as Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook and launched a crowd-sourcing drive at SmallKnot.com, which will allow him to keep any money raised even if his goal of $10,000 is not met.
He’s promising free pizzas to donors who shell out $25, and gift certificates to those who donate $50, $75, or $150. For a $500 donation, contributors get a pizza party for 10.
Giannone says he has no doubts that Sheridan’s place is going to end up just fine.
“David’s a great guy who’s always there for me,” said the 59-year-old pizzaiolo. “He’s going to create a great establishment, because his heart and soul are in it.”
To donate to Sheridan’s campaign visit www.smallknot.com/wheated-pizza-and-bar or go to Paulie Gee’s [60 Greenpoint Ave. between Franklin and West streets in Greenpoint, (347) 987–3747].Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg