By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — In the restaurant business, Errico Magnoli has worn many hats. He’s been a delivery driver and a general manager, and many things in between. He’s worn the caps of local companies like Dom’s Pizza and huge chains like Taco Bell.
Ever since he opened Uncle Rico’s Pizza in Shop-Rite Plaza just a few weeks ago, the bright-orange cap he wears to work has had his own name on it.
The smiling man embroidered on his work shirt wears a jaunty fedora.
“The picture of the man with the hat is actually me,” said Magnoli, who, as you might have guessed, goes by Rico — Uncle Rico to his beloved nieces and nephews, who inspired the pizzeria’s name.
“I grew out my mustache, and when I go out I kind of like to wear hats,” he said. Someone snapped a picture, and the Uncle Rico’s Pizza logo was born.
Like the uniform, the entire restaurant is infused with Magnoli’s personality, down to the bright-orange walls, which he says are part of the fun and memorable brand he’s working to build. But that brand never would’ve been realized without a push from his late father.
“He just saw how hard I worked and all the hours I put in, and he was like, ‘Why don’t you do it for yourself? You’re doing it now.
You’re working 10, 13 hours a day for someone else. Do it for yourself,’ ” Magnoli said.
“I would always tell him, ‘I can’t do it by myself. It’s hard work; it’s long hours; it’s very stressful.’ ”
Two years ago, his father passed away. “After that I thought, well, let me give it a shot. I’ll never know if I don’t do it,” he said.
His dedication is infectious, and his employees are excited to be a part of the new establishment.
“I feel like it’s important because we’re making the restaurant, so pretty much we’re going to make or break it, and I think that’s really cool,” said Jenna Evers, who started working at Uncle Rico’s just before it opened.
Magnoli says the place is off to a steady, if slow start.
The storefront isn’t yet marked with a sign, but he said some marketing efforts, combined with old-fashioned word-of-mouth, have helped him find customers.
Jurgen Bach and Jake Dominikoski, both 13, seemed to think Uncle Rico’s was doing just fine. The two biked over on one of the first days of summer vacation to share slices and sip sodas on the sidewalk outside.
The friends were already certain they’d make a habit of visiting the pizzeria all summer, but their faces lit up at the mention of one of Magnoli’s culinary experiments: Nutella dessert pizza.
“Want to go get a slice?” Bach asked. Dominikoski nodded, and the two headed back inside.