Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza was founded as a single restaurant concept back in 2002 when founder Anthony Bruno couldn’t find good, authentic pizza after he moved from Long Island to Florida. He grew up in a
traditional Italian family where food was everything. His and the restaurant’s motto is; “There are two kinds of people. Those who eat to live, and those who live to eat. Our guests are the ones who live to eat.”
Today there are 60 Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza restaurants across the country and behind their wine program is Niki Newman, Senior Director Beverage Operations who grew up with the same gusto for food. “Food was everything,” she says of her upbringing. “I was a fancy pants kiddo. I was the only 5-year-old to belly up to the sushi bar and order Uni…. And some things will never change.” Newman also confesses they dined out more than they dined in. “What I remember most about my father are the meals we had together. We used to laugh about putting Burgundy in my baby bottle… Though I’m not so sure he was joking….” she adds with only the slightest bit of sarcasm.“My dad was an Environmental Engineer and owned a water waste treatment company,” says Newman. “Talk about a totally boring presentation for bring your parent to school day – no one wanted to hear about how to clean and purify water.” I can feel the eye-roll. But she agrees his job had some amazing perks. “Growing up, I watched my dad travel all over the world. Hearing his stories fascinated me and I would daydream about the places I would one day get to explore.” The travel bug she caught young really spread its wings when she graduated from college. “I hit the road and backpacked solo through Europe. I have now been to 23 countries (and counting) and
I continue my adventures often to experience this big world we live in! Each and every time I travel, I learn more about myself, the world and the people on this earth.”
Niki’s passion for travel also had something to do with her college curriculum. “Before I fell in love with the hospitality industry, I was studying Russian and Political Science – as a matter of fact I have a degree in both. I wanted to go into the United Nations, I wanted to help bring more peace to our earth, I wanted to change the world! Somewhere along the way though, I realized that I could mend a person’s heart with a good meal and bottle of wine (or two). Since then, I’ve never looked back.”Newman’s “aha” moment as far as food and wine is concerned happened when she was 21. “I was working in a wine bar. My mentor at the time, took our team to DaMarco’s Italian Cucina. I fell in love – It was pure magic and the most amazing meal I had ever had. I experienced my first food & winegasm. It was in this moment the world made sense….the stars aligned. My destiny was clear to me. And then in my foodie haze, I stepped off the curb and broke my foot…seriously, I spent the rest of the evening in the hospital.”Newman grew up in Houston, Texas and as she puts it, “I am a Texas girl in my soul and now a Floridian in my heart.” She lives near the Fort Lauderdale headquarters of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. “I have been extraordinarily lucky to make a living from doing something that I love and am extremely passionate about. My favorite part is always the creativity of crafting an amazing cocktail or finding that perfect wine selection for someone. This industry is exciting, ever-changing and fast paced. And I love to travel. It suites me perfectly. Always on the go!”
And it’s all pretty serendipitous. “I love to eat. I love to cook. I love to drink. I was born for this industry. I learned the hard way that I do not fit into what most would consider a ‘normal’ 9-5 job. In a previous job – I was promoted from the Beverage department to Training Operations and I was re-organized into the HR department. I was so excited. I thought I had finally ‘made’ it out of the industry. A normal 9-5! It took less than a year for me to realize that I did not belong in that world. It’s a beverage life for me; this is my passion. The fast paced life isn’t for everyone, but it’s something that I love, it’s something that I thrive on. It is in this organized (usually not-so organized) chaos where I find my true inspiration.”Newman and her “partner, best friend, soul-mate” don’t have any human kids yet, but they are proud parents to two pit-bull/lab mix breeds. “I hope to have a dog rescue one day after I retire. Everyone should adopt/rescue, there’s just too many beautiful animals that need a forever home.” I totally agree. (I was also a fancy pants kid when it came to food and I am pretty sure I was ‘tasting’ wine by the time I was 8.)
It turns out Newman’s favorite getaway spot is not only in our hood, but we’ve been there. “Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country. There is something magical about this river. Its restorative, healing powers are the perfect getaway when you need to de-stress and slow down.” Floating in the river is definitely magical.
Uni and sushi in general are still on Newman’s go to list along with tacos, “Tacos Al Pastor and Italian. Always Italian,” she adds. As for beverages…“I do not discriminate. I am an equal opportunist drinker. As long as it is good! I make my beverage selections based on my mood, the weather, what I am eating, what I am wearing, what music I am listening to…. Though, I do love a good Bourbon. I’m always in the mood for bourbon. Oh and you can’t forget about bubbles. Who doesn’t love a great glass of bubbles, especially because it is socially acceptable to drink bubbles for breakfast.” Exactly. A no brainer. As far as putting food and wine together? “There’s two that I just cannot choose between,” she says, “A big, fat, juicy Ribeye paired with a
Napa Valley Cabernet or White Truffle & Fresh Tagliolini Pasta and a Brunello di Montelcino. Oh dear, I’m drooling….is it dinner time yet? I definitely ‘Live to Eat’.” She had me, at White Truffle.
But would you believe pizza is actually a new love of Newman’s? “A
few years ago (before I ever worked here) I did not eat pizza. As a matter of fact – I was very vocal about how much I disliked pizza. What I did not know at the time was that I just never had a good pizza. My best friend convinced me that I HAD to try Anthony’s and she was right. From the moment I tasted their pizza, I was hooked. It is still the only pizza I will eat and I eat TONS of it. I can’t get enough. There’s no better feeling than to work hard for a brand you are proud of and can truly believe in.”
Cover photography by Chelsea Gould Finding Light Photography