During our photoshoot for our UNEXPECTED 2019 Collection drop - where we shot in an embroidery shop I worked with years ago in the heart of the Garment Center to celebrate 18 years in business, we walked by and saw Upside Pizza right next door. Noam (Co-Founder of Upside Pizza) warmly invited us in for slices, and I had the opportunity to learn more about this new cool establishment and Noam's amazing entrepreneurial spirit while photographer Sophie Elgort continued to shoot the scene. I love unexpected meetings that turn into stories.
Learn more about Noam below [I might ask him about Chicago Style pizza... it's up for debate].
Noam Grossman stepped onto the New York food and hospitality scene as Operations Manager of B.GOOD, where he helped open the brand’s first New York store in Brooklyn Heights and oversaw its subsequent expansion across the tri-state region. He eventually grew into a business development role at B.GOOD, with a focus on driving sales at underperforming locations. With an engaged and on-the-ground approach, Grossman applied his natural attention to detail and developed a passion for fostering an inspiring work culture for his teams at B.GOOD. Under Grossman’s direction, less-frequented B.GOOD stores across New Jersey and Connecticut grew exponentially in performance and sales. Grossman later joined Dig Inn on the Strategic Operations team, working closely with one of the co-founders to bridge the gap between business strategy at the company’s headquarters and day-to-day operations in the field, building invaluable community relationships to ensure success and goal attainment. He then transitioned to the Offsite Team, utilizing his keen eye and drive for efficiency to focus on programming including delivery, catering, business and product development, and more. After leaving Dig Inn, Grossman created Upside Pizza with the goal of providing New Yorkers and visitors alike with an unparalleled but authentic slice experience, utilizing the highest quality ingredients in a nostalgic yet contemporary space.
Congratulations on the new spot! How does it feel to be in the hustle & bustle of the Garment District?
"The Garment District brings people from all walks of life, and Upside Pizza is a spot that caters to all different demographics. We created Upside with the desire to not only provide people with great pizza, but also pay homage to the communal element of a traditional pizza parlor, and the Garment District community has been very welcoming and receptive of Upside. The neighborhood is also somewhat of a dollar-slice haven, so we’re excited to continue celebrating the area’s traditional New York slice culture, while at the same time bring something different and of higher quality."
What [or who] inspires you?
"I'm inspired by the days I get to spend in the kitchen with my team, perfecting our pies and continuously working toward building a better slice."
"And I’m deeply inspired by the late Tony Bourdain. He was such a genuine human, who always had a willingness to take risks and never follow a rigid plan. He brought the world closer together through so much more than food alone. Another inspiration of mine is chef Massimo Bottura of the three-Michelin star, Osteria Francescana. I really value his commitment to feeding the homeless and hungry, while simultaneously working to reduce food waste. He owns and operates one of the best restaurants in the world, and he uses that prestige to make positive social and environmental impacts."
What causes do you advocate for?
"We've been open a little over a month and are excited to continue to support local farms, small, family-owned purveyors, and distributors who we admire for their sustainability and values. We're also gearing up to work with some great organizations like Edible Schoolyard, with a mission to build and share national edible education curriculum(s) for kids in pre-kindergarten through high school."
If you could have a pizza date with anyone [dead or alive] who would it be?
"Has to be Dave Chappelle. He’s not only one of the funniest people on earth, but he’s also extremely smart and well versed, and always stays true to himself. I’d also be down for John Mayer to join us. The two of them have such a great relationship through music and comedy, and they’re both very intentional people. They’re never trying to be anything other than themselves, no matter what situation arises. I really respect that."
Controversial question [our boss lady is from Chicago] – thoughts on Chicago Style Pizza?
"Controversial answer -- no comment."
"But in reality, while Upside’s pizza is quintessential New York, we still have a ton of respect for all kinds of pizza, including Chicago-style, and are always finding inspiration from others within the industry."
You knew this was coming.. what is your favorite kind of pizza?
"A classic New York slice -- thin and crispy, flavorful crust that can hold its own against the flavors and textures of the various cheeses and sauce. There’s nothing better. I’m also a huge fan of our Sicilian slices and their texture, but for me, a classic New York slice will always reign supreme."
What does your average day look like running a business?
"Well, I definitely now know the meaning of “24 hours straight.” I'm pretty much working round-the-clock running operations and handling business necessities behind the scenes, as well as jumping in to help my crew wherever I can. I like to spend a good amount of time in the kitchen prepping and working with our chef, developing new recipes, training staff, etc. I’m always making sure things are running consistently."
"Since we are still so new, I also spend a good deal of the day working hard to develop the Upside brand itself. We’ve got some exciting projects in the works -- like an upcoming clothing collab we’re releasing with Ovadia & Sons -- so it’s important for us to have a super solid foundation."
"And finally, if there’s any time leftover, I try to head home for some sleep (but when that doesn’t happen, I’ve become a pro at turning pizza boxes in a makeshift bed)."
What is your advice for other aspiring foodie entrepreneurs?
"If you’re thinking of opening a restaurant, make sure you fully understand what you are getting yourself into. It’s not something that’s done on a whim. It’s very real, very hard work, and there’s no room for slacking off. Often times people have this idealistic view on what owning and operating a restaurant is like. Believe me, there is a big difference between the dream and the reality, so make sure it’s something you desperately want before diving in. Also never underestimate the importance of community. As an entrepreneur, it's easy to get caught up in your own specific vision, but don't lose sight of why you are creating your business in the first place. Always remember that while the restaurant might be yours in ownership, it is not for you -- it's for the people."