REVERE — For longtime patrons of Bianchi’s Pizza in Revere Beach, the counter-service pizzeria meant one thing: family.
Well, that and “deliciousness,” according to Michelle Douglas, 50. She now lives in Las Vegas but grew up near Revere Beach — her parents have been going to Bianchi’s for more than 50 years — and she loves the pizzeria so much that she named her dog Bianchi in honor of the institution. To her, Bianchi’s was “everything.”
Bianchi’s last day in its current location was Sept. 3; the pizzeria closed temporarily to make way for construction on a 145-unit apartment development.
The pizzeria leased property on one of several spaces that will become the foundation of a multi-use structure, which Revere City Council approved construction on in early April.
“I don’t know what [my father is] going to do without his pizza,” Douglas said.
Her father, Joseph Douglas, isn’t quite sure what he’ll do without it either.
“Whatever they do, they do right,” the 74-year old Salem resident said. To the older Douglas, no pizza compares to that of Bianchi’s, where the slices are so good “even the seagulls like Bianchi’s Pizza.”
“I’m going to miss it,” he said. He isn’t the only one.
To Robert Bianchi, manager of the counter-service pizzeria, Bianchi’s was his “lifeblood.” He worked seven days per week overseeing operations, forgoing vacations and weekends off in what he considers a “labor of love.”
“I’d really hate to lose it, especially on my watch,” Bianchi said. He’s part of the “next generation;” his uncle Anthony founded Bianchi’s nearly seven decades ago.
“We put our heart, blood, and soul into this place — of course, I’d like to keep it going as long as possible,” Bianchi said.
A commercial space for restaurant operations will exist on the ground floor of the new development, according to the plans approved by Revere City Council. Bianchi said that while it could become a new permanent home for the pizzeria, the lease, price, and timeline of the space are still under negotiation. Until then, they’re seeking a temporary home that could become a more long-term solution. In a video posted on Bianchi’s Facebook page late last week, the Phantom Gourmet announced that in a couple of weeks, Bianchi’s will move to a temporary location attached to Renzo’s Pizzeria at 381 Revere Beach Blvd., a move confirmed by the Globe.
Bianchi expressed mixed feelings about the new building and the larger trend of development along Revere Beach, with concern for how it might affect the character of America’s first public beach.
“I understand that the world needs to move forward and people need places to live, but I’m a family man, family-oriented,” he said. “I just think it’s a nice place . . . [for] families to come down, and little establishments like us need to be here [for them].”
That family-friendly element is closely tied to the memories of longtime Bianchi’s patrons like Rena Agganis, 48, of Saugus. She said she stopped for a slice of pizza at Bianchi’s the night before the birth of each of her three children.
Prior the birth of her first son, the hospital induced labor and sent her home; hungry, Agganis and her husband stopped at Bianchi’s for a bite. Two and a half slices of cheese pizza, several hours, and an emergency C-section later, Agganis gave birth. The growing family continued the tradition with Bianchi’s the night before the births of each of her two younger sons.
“For me, it has special meaning because it’s the place I ate before the birth of my children, and the most important thing in my life is my kids,” Agganis said. “Every time I think of their birth, I think of Bianchi’s.”
For those whose earliest memories are flavored by the cheese, crust, and sauce of Bianchi’s Pizza, the institution provided comfort during difficult transitions.
Cindy Meola, 64, of Salem, fondly recalled trips to Bianchi’s as a child, walking up to the window barefoot in the summer to order a slice.
But Bianchi’s is also tied to more emotionally challenging times for Meola. She recently moved her stepfather out of his Revere Beach apartment, where he had lived with her mother in their later years, and transitioned him into a nursing home. During the move, Bianchi’s pizza provided comfort at the end of a long day going through her stepfather’s things.
“The thing we would look forward to and that we know would perk us up was stopping at Bianchi’s for a pizza,” Meola says. “I think they’re really going to be missed. . . . It’s going to be a really big loss.”
That the pizzeria of bygone days has an uncertain future is also contributing to worries about the irreversible changes in the landscape and character of Revere Beach that could accompany new developments.
“It’s the last vestige of your childhood,” said Michael DiOrio, 53, of Peabody. Unlike some who are open to new developments along the waterfront, DiOrio lamented the changes that he feels are severing his ties to the past and altering the landscape of the beach he recalls as family-friendly and accessible to all.
DiOrio considers Bianchi’s to be a Revere Beach landmark.
“Take that away, right, and there’s an anchor to the beach that really doesn’t exist anymore,” DiOrio said. “That’s sad, that’s really sad.”