Finding authentic New York style pizza can be a bit of chore in Southwest Florida, but admittedly, it can be done.
But a guy who makes his own cannoli cream, and pipes it in those crisp shells when you order? That’s a bit more rare.
Tucked along Old 41 in Bonita Springs sits Big Block Sub Shop.
The name is a bit misleading; it’s more than a sub shop. But the Big Block part certainly fits owner Frank Gericitano, a car enthusiast who loves food. Gericitano owned Cafe Dominic in Staten Island and moved to Southwest Florida 16 years ago.
“I came down to visit a friend of mine from New York,” he explained. “On my last day here I put a deposit down on a house. That’s how much I liked it.”
He purchased the sub shop and re-opened it in February, keeping and expanding on the car theme, which falls in line with his own car and motorcycle collection.
Gericitano’s favorite item on the menu is the Frankie, a chicken Parmigiana sub. Other oven baked subs include meatball Parmigiana, cheese steak and a pulled pork sub topped with cole slaw.
There are salads, pizza and cold subs, like the Big Block and All American subs, on the menu. Chef Filippo Musso makes New York-style pizza, the big, foldable slices topped with his homemade sauce and mozzarella cheese. Musso has a pizza and pasta pedigree. He was born in Brooklyn, prides himself on being 100 percent Sicilian and his family owns New York Pizza & Pasta in Naples.
He also makes the desserts, from tiramisu to cannoli shells filled with his homemade cannoli cream, the ends dipped in chocolate chips or pistachio crumbs.
According to manager Melissa Lawrence, Musso’s specials are part of the restaurant’s success. “The sweet chili pizza, the roast beef sandwich special,” Lawrence said. “We want to set ourselves apart.”
There are two dining areas – one in front near the deli meat and dessert case, and one in the back, all with the same red-striped walls, black and white checkered flag accents and framed photographs of classic cars. In the back dining area, a stack of fire truck parts leans against a wall, waiting to find its purpose and creating a conversation piece for diners.
Connecting the two areas is a short hallway with a small window and counter near the espresso machine, labelled the Expresso Bar.
“Lots of folks think we spelled it wrong,” Gericitano says, laughing. It’s another nod to the car theme; and the espresso is yet another thing you don’t expect to find in a sub shop. “But what else are you going to drink with tiramisu? You can’t have a cappuccino and a corn muffin.”
A new menu will debut this fall, and this summer the restaurant is focused on getting more established in the community. They’ve partnered with Momentum Brewery for an event, provide pizzas for local summer camps and school meetings and give a 10 percent discount to all county employees.
A second location will open before season starts in Flamingo Island Flea Market. For now, Gericitano and the staff continue to welcome locals and new faces as construction wraps up in downtown Bonita Springs.
“We want people to come in and feel at home,” said Lawrence.
“Everyone has a story,” Gericitano said. “My story is I have a passion for cars and food. This is it.”
Big Block Sub Shop is located at 27792 Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs. Carry-out and delivery are available. Hours are 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 2-8:30 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit bigblocksubs.com or call 992-1670.
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