Pizza Fenice gives owner John Gristina outlet for life-long passion

Mount Vernon resident John Gristina opened Pizza Fenice at 304 Fifth Ave. in the spring, but he’s not new to the business.

He had worked in his father’s pizzeria from the time he was young. His passion for pizza continued into adulthood, and he opened an earlier restaurant with two partners. When the relationship between the partners soured, Gristina took a break from the industry.

“Growing up doing something, it’s very hard to let it go, especially when you feel like you’re good at it,” said Gristina.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Gristina hosted mobile pizza parties using portable ovens, tents and a display case to make pizzas at various events. After finding the space to open a pizzeria that was close by in Pelham, he decided it was time to run his own restaurant.

Some of Gristina’s future plans for Pizza Fenice include streamlining the menu and establishing a strong delivery presence. According to Gristina, no other pizzerias in Pelham and the surrounding area deliver on a regular basis.

Gristina wants to remain a strong part of the community. He belongs to a nonprofit called Slice Out Hunger, which facilitates donations of pizzas to local shelters. The organization also hosts pizza pop-ups in New York City at which several pizzerias raise money for food banks and to combat food poverty.

“I think it’s important to give back, especially to your community,” said Gristina.

In addition to Slice Out Hunger, Gristina has been working through the World Pizza Champions, a group of international pizza makers, to provide food at Make-A-Wish events.

“I enjoy knowing that I was able to make something for someone that doesn’t know me that can put a smile on their face, even for a moment,” said Gristina. “It’s a nice feeling to know that you brought a little happiness to someone.”

Pizza Fenice offers both traditional and non-traditional pizza options, including dessert pizza.

Pizza Fenice’s website and Instagram are linked here.