2017-06-15 / Front Page

HOUSE OF PIZZA: THE END OF AN ERA

VENERABLE VILLAGE RESTAURANT CLOSES
BY ROBERT BERCZUK


ABOVE: Freddie Bingell pulls a pie from the oven at House of Pizza, which he closed following 26 years of business on Narragansett Avenue. ABOVE: Freddie Bingell pulls a pie from the oven at House of Pizza, which he closed following 26 years of business on Narragansett Avenue. If you’ve lived in Jamestown in the past four decades, there’s a good chance you’ve had a meal prepared by Freddie Bingell.

Bingell has been ubiquitous on the town’s food scene since his first job as a 13-year-old in the early 1980s. That tenure ended Memorial Day weekend when he closed the doors of House of Pizza, the place he’s owned at 23 Narragansett Ave. for a quarter century.

“I had to move on to the next level of my life,” said Bingell, 49, of Fowler Street. “It was time. I needed a change of scenery and I wanted to make it before I was too old to do it.”

The move surprised many in town who are used to seeing Bingell making pizza, grinders and sides since he first walked into Fuzzy’s in 1982.


BELOW: Bingell serves grinders to customers on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. He closed following the holiday. 
PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN BELOW: Bingell serves grinders to customers on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. He closed following the holiday. PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN “We’re so sad to see him go,” said Cathryn Jamieson, who’s been a regular customer for more than 20 years. “He gave a lot of himself to the community and everybody knew him.”

Not only did Jamieson and her staff eat Bingell’s food weekly, they sometimes would order-in items for clients having long spa treatments, she said.

That kind of personalized treatment and customer service was a hallmark of Bingell’s, several of his regular customers said.

Jeremy White said Bingell often would deliver a specially made breakfast pizza — with eggs, bacon and hash browns — to him and the rest of the crew working Saturday mornings at Bank Newport.

“It was a nice family place, and he always took care of anything you needed done,” White said.

White had been eating at House of Pizza since he was a boy and passed that love of Bingell’s food onto his kids in recent years, either dining in or ordering out at least once a week.

Serving generations of Jamestowners seems like a natural fit for Bingell, whose first job working for Donald “Fuzzy” Andreozzi started a lifelong career in the restaurant business. “I took to it like a fish to water,” he said.

After a few years at Fuzzy’s, the Jamestown native moved to Socrates Pizza, where he eventually was promoted to manager. Bingell, who came from a big family and always cooked around the house, decided in 1991 to take the plunge and open his own place.

“It came naturally to me, and I was just good at it,” he said. “I was getting paid well and said, ‘I might as well do it for myself.’ ”

While House of Pizza was Bingell’s first brick-and-mortar place, he already had been catering parties while operating a hot dog cart and the snack shack at Mackerel Cove. Those simpler times have faded in recent years as the island has gone from a handful of restaurants in the 1980s and ’90s to around 15 options today.

“Everybody’s taking a slice of the pie and you can only cut it so many ways,” Bingell said.

There’s also the time commitment with becoming the face of a franchise, as Bingell had with House of Pizza. “When you become the business, that’s the problem. In this business, you become the business and everybody wants to see you and that’s grueling.”

Bingell said he vacillated closing the restaurant so abruptly, but he didn’t want a farewell tour that dragged out several weeks.

“Part of me feels like I let them down by just packing up,” he said. “But I didn’t want people to come in and be all boo-hooey.”

Bingell is remaining in the restaurant game, taking over as manager for Socrates Pizza on Post Road in North Kingstown, which is owned by his brother-in-law. As for the business he’s leaving behind, he wanted to thank the hundreds of workers and thousands of customers who supported his venture.

“I’ll miss the customers and the generations of people I’ve fed,” he said. “After 30-something years of serving food in Jamestown, you know your customers, and a lot of them were on a much more personal level.”

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