Venezia's Domenick Montanile on the Pizzeria's Breaking Bad Connection
Ahem, "spoiler alert." If you're not caught up on Breaking Bad, you might want to get that way before reading further.
There's no way around it, Breaking Bad fans: It's almost over. On Sunday, September 29, AMC will air the final episode of the acclaimed drama, drawing to a close the saga of high school chemistry teacher-turned meth kingpin Walter White, as portrayed by Bryan Cranston. Since the show's start in 2008, it's slowly and patiently built its case for the "Greatest Television Show of All Time," with creator/writer/showrunner Vince Gilligan expertly guiding a stellar cast through a thrilling, often excruciating exploration of human ego. It's racked up numerous Emmys (it was awarded "Outstanding Drama Series" Sunday night) and other awards along the way, and earned a "universal acclaim" rating on Metacritic.
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Throughout the whole thing, Gilligan and co. have dotted the bleak Southwestern landscape of the show with black humor: the wisecracks of scummy lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), Danny Trejo's dismembered head saddling a turtle, and of course, the infamous pizza-on-the-roof shot in the third-season episode Caballo Sin Nombre.
Eagle-eyed viewers and fans of Valley pizza joint Venezia's Pizzeria probably noticed a familiar logo on the pizza box in that scene, and it wasn't the only time Venezia's was featured on the show. Turns out the Phoenix pizza joint has roots in Albuquerque, where the show is shot and takes place.
Venezia's "originated in Albuquerque," explains Domenick Montanile, owner of four Venezia's in the Phoenix area. "My father started it in 1978, in a town called Rio Rancho, which is like a suburb of Albuquerque. I moved out here to go to ASU, and that's how I ended up opening the stores out here. My dad retired, and my cousins -- Renato and Aldo Venturino -- worked with him [in New Mexico]. We've all worked together since we were young, and they basically wanted to open a pizza place as well. They asked my dad to be partners and use his name, so they opened there as well, as Venezia's. We all use the same recipes; my dad started it, and he's been partners in both [areas]."
AMC The Venezia's party pizza on Walter White's roof.
Apparently someone on the Breaking Bad staff dug the pies at Venezia's ("We're true Italians, man, parents straight off the boat -- first generation," Montanile says of the pizza's tasty authenticity). They delivered to the set occasionally, took take-out orders, and provided empty boxes to the crew. But one day the Venturinos got a call for 10 of the restaurant's massive party pizzas.
"The film crew, they were always picking up pizzas, that sort of thing," Montanile says. "One day they came to them and said, 'Hey, we need to buy 10 party pizzas.' They don't really say why -- because they're not allowed to and that sort of thing -- but my cousin knew something was going on; so that was the first scene we were featured in, when [Walter White] threw it on the roof."