RObert Andreozzi and Jesse Hedberg opened Pizza Marvin on Providence’s East Side in 2020, featuring uniquely creative pies and cocktails that set Marvin it from the competition.
The James Beard Awards are the Oscars of the culinary world, and for Bristol native Robert Andreozzi, who finds himself in the running for 2023’s Best Chef: Northeast, it’s an incredible, if somewhat unexpected honor.
“Every restaurant I have worked at has been nominated in one category or another; it’s something I’ve always wanted,” he said.
“But I never imagined it would be at a silly pizzeria.”
He is referring of course, to Pizza Marvin, the pizzeria he and partner, Jesse Hedberg opened on Providence’s East Side in 2020, featuring uniquely creative pies and cocktails that set Marvin apart from the competition. There’s nothing silly about the buzz they have created at their Wickenden Street eatery, but Andreozzi’s point speaks more to changing trends in dining and the fact that the Beard Foundation’s selection process has become more inclusive of restaurants beyond the fine dining realm. “I don’t know that they would have even considered a pizzeria three or four years ago,” he said.
Though Andreozzi did attend a JWU culinary arts program in Denver, he credits his many mentors, beginning with the ones he worked under at the Cherry Hills Country Club while going to school, with his education.
“Most of us who take this craft seriously found great mentors who take this craft seriously,” he said.
The next decade-plus would see Andreozzi cooking in kitchens from New York to Italy to Rhode Island, and he values all of those experiences — including the ones that showed him how he did not want to do things.
“They were not all the best environment,” he admitted.
A former college athlete, he said he liked being held to a high standard in the kitchen. “I didn’t mind being yelled at,” he said, as long as they were connecting. He cited his tenure at Del Posto, formerly co-owned by celebrity chef Mario Batali, as a challenging but positive experience. “I got my butt kicked hard, but I felt supported and it was wonderful,” he said.
Eventually, he returned to Rhode Island and ended up meeting Hedberg, a bartender, working in Newport. In December 2020, they joined forces, opening Marvin, with Jesse’s bar program complementing Andreozzi’s creations — including seasonal pies featuring bacon, apple, comte cheese and thyme. Another includes honeynut, pancetta, sage and calabrian chili oil — and they are just two of the many options on the current menu. “We create really well together,” said Andreozzi. “It is a really collaborative effort.”
But Andreozzi and Hedburg might work even harder at creating a certain culture at Marvin that is as unexpected as their pepperoni negroni, or a pie including taleggio, an aromatic Italian cheese (both on the menu.)
“We are proud of the culture here,” he said. “We pay more than we can afford to, and our retention speaks to that. We care about our employees’ quality of life, and want to make it possible for people to consider a career in the food industry.”
Andreozzi also believes in supporting other local chefs and restauranteurs, and building a community that sticks together. For the past two years Marvin has held an event, the 12 Pies of Christmas, inviting other local chefs to create a pie and giving the proceeds to charity. In just those two years they have given about $20,000 to Farm Fresh RI and Amos House.
“The industry is hard work, but we can still treat each other with respect,” said Andreozzi. If he moves on in the competition, he hopes that recognition of the culture and community exemplified at Marvin might be one, key reason. He will find out on Wednesday, March 29 if he is a finalist; winners will be announced Monday June 5 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“Yes, I’ve always wanted a James Beard Award,” said Andreozzi. “But this nomination is so affirming, I feel like we’ve already won.”