OCEAN CITY – The first Grotto Pizza in Maryland is scheduled to open its doors this weekend in Ocean City.
Grotto Pizza was started in 1960 by 17-year-old Dominick Pulieri from Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He was making pizza from an early age in his brother-in-law’s restaurant and ventured into Delaware to start a pizza restaurant of his own. To this day, Pulieri is the CEO and president of the 52-year-old company.
“It is an amazing story, he started it with nothing and we now have 17 restaurants in Delaware, three in Pennsylvania, and this is the first one in Maryland,” Grotto Pizza Vice President Jeffrey Gosnear said, who has been with the restaurant for nine years.
Grotto Pizza on 124th Street in Ocean City will be celebrating its opening this weekend.
“It was the logical progression for us to come into Maryland,” Gosnear said. “It is a resort market and we know how to operate businesses in the resort market. Eleven of our stores are in Sussex County, which is predominantly a resort area.”
Gosnear added that as Grotto’s takes the big step into the Maryland market the move will hopefully lead to the opening of additional Ocean City locations in the future, but for now they are taking it one opening at a time.
“We wanted something significant to start out with here, we didn’t want to come down here unless we were going to do it right,” Gosnear said.
The location on 124th Street, formally the Old Mill Crab House and Dough Roller, seems to be the right fit for Grotto Pizza with room for an outdoor patio, a new sports bar, seating for 300 and a miniature golf course.
The exterior of the building has been transformed from the Dough Roller’s traditional Victorian look to now resemble a Grotto Pizza with the restaurant’s signature tower with a red metal roof.
The new sports bar will have 12 TVs running sports continuously, plus the restaurant will be equipped with three additional TVs.
“It was a pretty big transformation … we tried to keep the bones the same,” Gosnear said.
The outdoor miniature golf course will also transform from its “space invasion” theme to “Grotto’s Ocean Adventure” and is planned to be open by Memorial Day.
“Grotto’s is an interesting concept in the sense that it is a family focused restaurant with a sports bar,” Gosnear said.
Of course, Grotto’s is known for its pizza but the menu also offers pasta, subs, salads and much more.
When The Dispatch asked what sets Grotto Pizza apart from the rest, Gosnear responded, “First off it’s our product. We have such a unique flavor profile. Also, I would put our service up against any other restaurant in Ocean City. Our product and our service is the top in the area.”
Grotto Pizza on 124th Street is anticipating being open at least 10 months out of the year in the resort town, closing in January and February.
Happy Hour will be offered Monday through Friday including the house special, a $3 Big Beer, which is a 24-ounce glass of Coors or Bud Light.
To find out more about Grotto Pizza’s specials, sign up to be a member of its fan club at grottopizza.com and receive $3 off a large pizza.
“I think it is going to be a good thing for us here,” Gosnear said. “We have this big monster to operate and I think we will be able to do it.”