May 27 – Happy Birthday Tom Minnitti

Tommy222Born on May 27, 1947, he is the last surnamed “Minnitti” to make pizza commercially in Amsterdam.  His involvement in one of this city’s all-time great round-pan pies goes back over half a century when he first started helping his Aunt Martha and Uncle Frank in the tiny kitchen of the now-abandoned Minnitti’s Grill on West Main Street. Back then, Minnitti’s used to purchase their pizza dough from Greco’s Bakery, which was right down the block from the family-run business. The problem with that outsourcing was that regardless of how much dough they bought, they’d always run out long before would-be-customers stopped calling to order. It was young nephew Tommy, who finally convinced his elders to make their own dough and when they followed his advice and purchased the dough making machine, it was young Tommy again who helped perfect the recipe.

There use to be a curtain instead of a door between the kitchen and barroom at Minnitti’s. When you’d go pick up your pizza, that curtain would swing aside and more often than not it would be Tommy bringing out your order. It used to remind me of the scene in the Wizard of Oz when ToTo pulls back the curtain revealing the real Wizard. That’s why I’ve always considered Tommy Minnitti to be the “Pizza Wizard” in Amsterdam.

After graduating from Lynch High School in 1965, serving in the military and studying business administration at both FMCC and SUNY Binghamton, Tommy re-entered the dough business, however this time it was as a banker. But his long-held dream of owning his own restaurant spurred him to open TJ Minnitti’s in Amsterdam’s Riverfront Center. He would later relocate it to the corner of Guy Park and Bayard Street and reintroduce a whole new generation of Amsterdam pizza-lovers to that famous thin-crust Minnitti pie.

Now retired, he and his wife Betty split their year between Amsterdam and Florida. Happy Birthday Tom!

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