Hollywood history: DeLuca’s new spot includes bar owned by legendary actors

A sign at the previous location for Deluca’s Pizzeria at 831 Central Ave. bids farewell to that locale and welcomes customers to the new spot next door at 833 Central. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record
A sign at the previous location for Deluca’s Pizzeria at 831 Central Ave. bids farewell to that locale and welcomes customers to the new spot next door at 833 Central. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record

It's said a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

For the owner of Deluca's Pizzeria, a move to a new location just a few feet next door is the perfect culmination to a nearly 10-year journey of his culinary labor of love with an unexpected gift involving Hollywood royalty as a bonus.

"This is the sum total of my collective imagination of what I want a restaurant to look like," Anthony Valinoti said. "Going into my 10th year, I feel like I'm finally able to build the place I wanted."

Deluca's first opened its doors on Nov. 22, 2013, at 407 Park Ave. where Valinoti and his crew began building their reputation as pizza artists, garnering award after award. In October 2018, they packed up and moved to 831 Central Ave., which was actually smaller, but a better location, Valinoti has previously said.

A grand opening was planned for Saturday to celebrate the move directly next door to 833 Central, former location of The Trough Bar and Grill, but the weather has delayed the official opening until next week.

The new space offers 3,600 square feet of room compared to the 2,500 square feet at the previous location and a kitchen "that's at least two or three times bigger," Valinoti said.

"It's unbelievable ... insanely beautiful," he said of the kitchen. "We'll be able to cook food we've been wanting to give people for years but never had the space to do it. All those good things we've been working on for years and years are finally coming to fruition."

"Deluca's is getting a proper kitchen finally and you can quote me on that," Zach Nix, the restaurant's executive chef, said. "We're getting our elbow room now. It's so much better."

"It's the kitchen it deserves," Valinoti said. "These guys have worked so hard in a cramped space. You know, you've got four or five or six guys trying to work in a small space."

A surprise gift from "an amazing human being and dear friend" that is "a piece of Hollywood history" has also transformed the very nature of the business itself.

John Currence, a renowned James Beard award-winning chef and owner of numerous restaurants, has given Valinoti a full-sized bar that was previously in the home of actress Elizabeth Taylor and her then-husband, singer/actor Eddie Fisher, which Currence previously had at one of his former businesses, Fat Eddie's Lamar Lounge, in Oxford, Miss.

"We had no intention of having something like that," Valinoti said. "We were just going to build a little bar, but this changes the whole atmosphere of the place. It really does. We didn't even have a bar at the old location. We were looking to have a restaurant with a bar in it, but now it's almost a restaurant and a bar. It's going to be spectacular."

Valinoti said he was sitting at Currence's house one day discussing his plans for the new location and asked, "What am I going to do about a back bar?" He said Currence pulled out his phone and showed him a photo of the bar, which had been sitting in storage for years, and asked, "'Do you want this?'" and "of course I wanted it. Are you crazy?"

He said Currence had bought the bar through an auction, and one story alleges Fisher had pulled a gun out of one of the wooden drawers during an argument with Taylor and told her, "If you weren't so (expletive) beautiful, I'd kill you." Valinoti said he plans to have a photo of Taylor behind the bar and joked about maybe keeping a gun in the drawer.

"I'm super excited about it," he said. "It's really, really a centerpiece of any establishment. The woodwork is insane. We weren't sure it would even fit, but it did. I love the sheer insanity of what I'm doing."

He said they "went all retro" with the bar stools and chairs to "get that feel of an old Italian restaurant from New York," noting they would be moving all the chandeliers from next door to the new spot as well.

Valinoti said the plan is for the space he is vacating at 831 Central to be a children's clothing store called, "Tater Tots." He noted some people suggested he should keep both spaces for the restaurant, but "I thought that would be too big. I just feel like it was way too much. Deluca's has always been an intimate place. It's not going to be a Cheesecake Factory."

He said the downside of having too much space is there could be a decent crowd inside and "it would still look empty, and no restaurant owner wants that. I am very pleased with the space here. The look, the feel, the décor, the atmosphere, the ambience, all those things I really wanted. This is the place. I love it."

  photo  Anthony Valinoti, owner of Deluca’s Pizzeria, discusses the restaurant’s move from 831 Central Avenue to a location directly next door at 833 Central where they plan to open for business again this week. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  A Deluca’s T-shirt is seen in the foreground with a bar being installed at the new location for Deluca’s Pizzeria at 833 Central Ave. in the background. The bar, which was once in the home of actress Elizabeth Taylor and her then-husband actor/singer Eddie Fisher, was given to Deluca’s owner, Anthony Valinoti, by a longtime friend and fellow chef, John Currence. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record