Anthony Falco is “the most well known International Pizza Consultant in the world,” according to his website. He gave himself that “International Pizza Consultant” title after the first time he flew to Brazil. In an interview with the Smart Pizza Marketing podcast, Falco explained, “fake it ‘till you make it, right?” It’s a philosophy he’s taken to heart.
Falco’s also an Instagram influencer. He’s verified, signified by a blue checkmark badge, which means that Falco has been confirmed by the platform to be a “public figure, celebrity or global brand.” He derived that status from Roberta’s, a pizzeria in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Roberta’s started as a local hangout spot for working artists; a former Roberta’s employee described it as such: “People used to be getting stabbed and getting their cars set on fire, and [after Roberta’s] you could just come out and chill.” Now, there’s an internet radio station in their backyard; a two Michelin-starred sister restaurant, Blanca, next door; and a frozen pizza line at Whole Foods. Roberta’s is a phenomenon.
Bon Appétit described Falco as “the guy who put Roberta’s on the map.” The New York Times echoed that sentiment: they called Falco, “the baker who helped put the artisanal pizza at Roberta’s in Bushwick, Brooklyn, on the map.” Eater described him as “the former bigwig chef behind Brooklyn’s famous Roberta’s.”
They weren’t alone. Grub Street made similar claims, pointing to Falco as “one of [Roberta’s] most essential figures.” They added that he was “the man who defined the restaurant’s gonzo pizza style, the most imitated aspect of the restaurant, thanks in part to the toppings-happy approach Falco perfected.”
Falco’s been featured in YouTube videos for Bon Appétit, First We Feast, Food52, Munchies, The New York Times, and others. He’s got a book deal with Abrams (the publishing house behind Pizza Camp: Recipes from Pizzeria Beddia). He’s said there’s a pilot with Condé Nast. And, as of the time of writing, he’s the keynote speaker for Pizza Expo 2020.
All of those articles and appearances were predicated on Falco’s role at the wood-fired pizzeria, Roberta’s. But wood wasn’t the only thing being fired at Roberta’s: the restaurant fired Anthony Falco in November of 2016. They sued him in the following year, and, finally, Roberta’s changed the name of his namesake pizza, the “Millennium Falco”—it’s now on their menu as the “Millennial Falcon.” I prefer the latter.
When asked about Anthony Falco’s contribution to Roberta’s, a Roberta’s employee told me, “Anthony had nothing at all, to do with any menu progress made when we were getting the reviews that counted.” One of those reviews was a two-star review from The New York Times in 2011.
A former Roberta’s employee responded to the aforementioned Bon Appétit quote rhetorically: “What fucking universe are these people living in? They’re not questioning owners at Roberta’s? It’s insane.” They continued, mockingly, “You took Roberta’s to space, Anthony? How amazing. Let’s trust this guy who got fucking fired from the restaurant.”
In response to the claim that Falco put Roberta’s “on the map,” Roberta’s co-founder and co-owner Brandon Hoy told me the that “Roberta’s is bigger than any one person it is a collection of talent. Always has been and always will be.”
A senior member of Roberta’s during Falco’s employment also credited the many pizza makers at Roberta’s: “Just like any restaurant kitchen worth [its] salt, many good people strived to make it better. And of course, from the very beginning, recipe development was open to all comers. So I think the greatest truth anyone could say about the pizza there is that a long line of dedicated pizza makers made it great. Possibly too many to name.”
Beyond that, they directly addressed Falco: “I 100% believe he seriously misrepresented his role [at Roberta’s] to build his reputation.”
On January 10, 2008, Chris Parachini, Brandon Hoy, Carlo Mirarchi, and Mauro Soggiu founded Roberta’s in Bushwick, Brooklyn (or East Williamsburg, depending on whom you ask). The restaurant was named after Parachini’s mother.
Parachini and Hoy had conceived of the restaurant in 2006, on the day after Thanksgiving. They were inspired during a meal at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven.
They needed cash—Mirarchi invested, and he became the head chef. Soggiu knew someone in Fossano, Italy looking to sell a wood-fired pizza oven for cheap. They both joined as partners, and the restaurant became more and more tangible.
The founders traveled to Italy to apprentice under an Italian pizza maker, and by summer 2007, they had started building out the restaurant themselves.
Parachini created the Roberta’s dough recipe in the weeks prior to opening, and I’ve been told that it was “well before” Falco was ever employed at Roberta’s. Mirarchi developed the non-pizza dishes and contributed obscure cured meats to the pizzas.
By the time Roberta’s opened, there was no gas or heat. Water had to be boiled in the pizza oven. According to the Roberta’s Cookbook by Mararchi, Hoy, Parachini and Katherine Wheelock, some of the food was cooked in Mirarchi’s Manhattan apartment, and then it was warmed up to serve in a toaster oven.
Weeks after Roberta’s opened, Anthony Falco joined the restaurant as a part-time pizza maker—he had met Chris Parachini and Brandon Hoy while working as a bartender at the now defunct Williamsburg bars, Royal Oak and Sweet Ups. Prior to Roberta’s, Falco never made pizza professionally.
Around a year after Roberta’s opened, Falco started working part-time as a line cook at Vinegar Hill House, splitting his time between there and Roberta’s, the latter of which was still his primary employer. Chef and owner Jane Adamson had needed help with her wood-fired oven in the restaurant’s early days, and Adamson turned to her friends, the Roberta’s founders, who sent her Falco. He worked there for just under a year.
At Roberta’s, Parachini, Hoy, and Mauro Soggiu were directly managing the pizza kitchen for a while. As founders started to focus on managing Roberta’s on a broader scale, they ended up putting employees in charge of the pizza kitchen.
Roberta’s pizza kitchen went through a couple of employee managers, including Anthony Falco, for several-month-long stints before finally landing on Angelo Womack in mid-2009, and Ken Weinreich joined Womack in leading the kitchen shortly thereafter. Falco had left Roberta’s after his brief time as a manager.
In early 2010, Falco started working at the defunct Keith McNally restaurant, Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria. Falco had met Pulino’s executive chef, Nate Appleman, while Appleman was apartment shopping—Falco’s apartment was the one being shown. Falco was unemployed at the time; he recognized Appleman, and Appleman hired him on the spot.
At Pulino’s, Falco took a break from pizza. He worked as line cook, cooking the small plates and other non-pizza items. Falco left Pulino’s after about six months.
Despite Anthony Falco’s absence, Roberta’s kept moving ahead. By summer of 2010, Angelo Womack and Ken Weinreich were still running the Roberta’s pizza kitchen, and with the help of Chris Parachini and Brandon Hoy, they created the mobile pizza operation, which enabled Roberta’s to do off-site catering work. Womack and Weinreich ran the mobile pizza operation together as they also managed the pizza kitchen at the restaurant.
In fall of 2010, the mobile operation was hot off the heels of Madison Square Eats (at the time, Madison Sq. Mark’t), and the mobile pizza oven was in rough shape—the oven couldn’t be moved, and it ended up becoming a permanent fixture at Roberta’s.
At around that time, Womack and Weinreich had stopped managing the pizza kitchen as they focused on leading the mobile pizza operation, and Falco had just returned to Roberta’s. Falco had obtained the funds for a mobile oven, and with the Roberta’s mobile oven no longer mobile, he worked out a deal with Roberta’s owners: Roberta’s would gain the use of Falco’s mobile pizza oven, and Falco would become the Head of Mobile Pizza Operations. Roberta’s really needed a mobile oven.
When asked about Roberta’s early days by Frank Pinello in the first episode of The Pizza Show, Anthony Falco said, "I don’t remember much from the early days. A lot of drugs and drinking.” No one else with whom I spoke seemed to remember much of Falco from those days, either. Before Anthony Falco became the Head of Mobile Pizza Operations, it seems like he wasn’t a main character in the earliest chapters of the Roberta’s story—he wasn’t working there until a couple of weeks after the restaurant opened, and then he had left Roberta’s before the mobile operation started.
For those first couple of years, employees with whom I spoke pointed to Chris Parachini, Brandon Hoy, Carlo Mirarchi, Ken Weinreich, and Angelo Womack as some of the main figures at Roberta’s. Weinreich and Womack each were putting in 80 hour weeks at Roberta’s to run the pizza kitchen and mobile operation. And the founders built Roberta’s, both literally and figuratively.
With Falco at the helm of the mobile operation, the atmosphere shifted: “His method of management was fear,” said an employee who worked with Falco. His leadership style was described as “do what I say, not what I do.” They explained, “He’s not good with stress.”
They called the work environment, “the Falco show,” and they elaborated: “It’s a king in his castle. Laugh at his jokes… or you won’t fit in, or you’ll get yelled at it. It was kind of high school cliquiness.”
Falco’s typical day-to-day was characterized thusly: “[Falco] worked [on the ovens], but he mainly just chilled and walked around… that classic head chef thing—I’ll come in and yell at some people while all of these people are busting ass.” Additionally, Falco handled scheduling.
In contrast, Angelo Womack’s leadership was praised by employees: “Womack is really good at keeping people on task,” said an employee who had worked under Womack. Roberta’s employees looked forward to Womack showing up, and he was also described as a calming force: “Womack would show up and tell everyone to ‘chill the fuck out.’”
By summer 2011, Lauren Calhoun, who had joined Roberta’s in 2010 as a pizza cook, took over leading the Roberta’s pizza kitchen as Head Chef of Pizza.
An employee who worked under Calhoun described the transformative effect that Calhoun had on the Roberta’s pizza kitchen: “[Calhoun] made the management, pizza, vibe and leadership of that kitchen go from unorganized male-driven ego toxicity to professional nice place to work.”
Another employee viewed Calhoun as an advocate for her team: “people were heard, and she cared about their well-being and was willing to fight for it.”
And a third employee expressed that Calhoun fostered a welcoming environment for women: “…if it wasn’t for all the girls working in the kitchen I probably wouldn’t [have] applied there in the first place. [Calhoun’s] really amazing.”
None of those were rare sentiments expressed about Calhoun.
But 2014 saw Anthony Falco promoted to the Director of Pizza Operations, and Falco’s childhood friend and future business partner, Peter Litschi, became the new Head of Mobile Pizza Operations (Litschi had joined Roberta’s as full-time employee in 2012). Maybe it was a paired negotiation—who’s to say?
Shortly after Falco’s promotion to Director of Pizza Operations, Calhoun left Roberta’s to go work as the sous chef of Virginia’s in Alphabet City. After Falco was fired from Roberta’s, Calhoun would return to Roberta’s as the Chef de Cuisine, a role which absorbed leadership of the pizza kitchen. I’ve been told Calhoun made up for lost time.
In his new role role as Director of Pizza Operations, Anthony Falco was put onto frozen pizza. But despite implications to the contrary by Bon Appétit (among others), Falco did not create the frozen pizza program at Roberta’s—I’ve been told that founder Chris Parachini developed the frozen pizza program.
According to a Heritage Radio Network interview with Roberta’s co-founder Brandon Hoy, frozen pizza was already being distributed by 2013, a time in which Falco was still running the mobile pizza operation at Roberta’s. Whole Foods specifically wanted to carry Roberta’s pizza at their Gowanus location when they opened in late 2013.
Falco also worked in Roberta’s commissary kitchen, in a neighboring building. His role in the commissary kitchen focused on making sure Roberta’s pizzeria, back kitchen, and other locations had the prepared ingredients that they needed.
Falco did spend some time in the Roberta’s kitchen, though. A Roberta’s employee from that period described the dread of working with him and his long-time associate, Peter Litschi: “One time I walked into the take out space and it was really busy so I walked into the kitchen to help them clear the board, but when I saw it was just Anthony and Pete, I left before they could see me. Those two were fucking nightmares to work with. All the time. Always so pissed off... why? Not sure.”
The employee described the anger as “...a lot of yelling and barking orders.”
A different Roberta’s employee who had worked with Falco and Litschi told me, “Everyone hated working for them.” That’s hyperbolic, of course. It comes back to what a Roberta’s employee said about Falco’s tenure as Head of Mobile Operations: “It was kind of high school cliquiness.” I’d imagine the experience was polarizing, and those in the in-group didn’t hate working for Falco—they were empowered by him, and they likely continue to be.
Employees that worked at Roberta’s when Falco became the Director of Pizza Operations claimed that they had never seen him working in the pizza kitchen. A former employee described him as being “...good at reaching out to people and collaborating… [because] he wasn’t in the kitchen.” Another said, “I’ve never seen Falco work at the restaurant.”
In episode one of The Pizza Show, Falco told host Frank Pinello, “I like stopped working like, in the pizza kitchen, like every day. I want to make pizza, as often as I can, but really, I also don’t want to get in the way of the really talented crew that we have.” I’ve been told that the episode was filmed in October of 2015, just over a year before he was fired by Roberta’s.
The employees that claimed Falco wasn’t in the Roberta’s pizza kitchen may have missed him in the kitchen. But their claims imply that Falco wasn’t a daily fixture there when he became the Director of Pizza Operations in 2014. By October of 2015, he claimed that he “stopped working... in the pizza kitchen... every day.” When exactly was he working in the pizza kitchen “every day”?
Sources pointed to Chris Ancona as being the one who managed the Roberta’s pizza kitchen once Lauren Calhoun left. In a court document, Roberta’s described Falco as having “worked in a variety of roles, including as a member of Roberta’s Art Department, until his termination.”
Vox recently interviewed Anthony Falco, calling him “one of the masterminds behind Brooklyn’s Neapolitan institution Roberta’s.” In the interview, Falco waxed poetic about being fired from jobs: “Yeah, I’ve been fired from other jobs before, and I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s because I have very little filter.”
Regarding his lack of filter, a Roberta’s employee shared an account of an interaction with Falco at Roberta’s: “[Falco] told me he would ‘fuck the shit’ out of one of the women on staff… we [didn’t] know each other well.” Falco followed up his remark with “but I don’t do that anymore.”
Does being the Director of Pizza Operations mean that the employee Falco wanted to “‘fuck the shit’ out of” was subordinate to him?
In the interview, Falco also discussed his firing from Roberta’s: “I had no idea I was leaving Roberta’s. It felt pretty accidental. I had my head down, I was working there for about nine years, and I went to LA when there was a change in direction, and basically I got fired. The partnership had broken up, and I was collateral damage.”
That part about Falco having his “head down” for nine years also came up in an interview with the Smart Pizza Marketing podcast: “I had just had my head down for nine years at Roberta’s just doing my thing. When I looked up, it had become kind of become an international sensation, and a lot of people associated that with me. I mean, I worked really hard. Really, there’s a big team of people that made all of that happen. But uh, you know, I had a lot of people looking to me ”
I wonder if Falco repeated that “head down” line to himself in the mirror. Those quotes are in stark contrast to what he said in an interview the Wood Fired podcast about his negotiation for becoming the Director of Pizza Operations at Roberta’s: “I was making, you know, a lot of money, with the [mobile operation] deal—the original deal that we had—so they kind of reformulated the deal a little bit. [The Roberta’s owners] rolled me into the whole business. Um, and, uh, you know, I was running everything. So, the, you know, my deal, was like fine, we can do that, but I want to be in charge of everything that, that, if it’s pizza, and it’s Roberta’s, you know, it’s my, it’s me, you know, I’m the face of it. I’ve been putting it in, you know.”
Falco wanted to be “the face" of Roberta’s. The fact that people associated Roberta’s success with him was by design. And that aligns with how an employee from that period described Falco: “He can do things, but he’s more of a business man. He’s more driven [by becoming] famous.” They claimed that “[Falco] wanted a job that wasn’t cooking, but was in the spotlight.”
As for Falco’s claim that he was fired by Roberta’s due to “collateral damage,” that’s a mischaracterization. Falco told a different story to the Wood Fired podcast: “My vision for Roberta’s and then the rest of the partners’ visions had just [pause] separated, you know... you know, irreconcilable.“
I’ve been told that Falco was finally fired when he “couldn’t fool anyone anymore.”
In the Vox interview, Anthony Falco made the comment: “When we opened Roberta’s there wasn’t Instagram,” the “we” seeming to imply that he founded Roberta’s. As noted earlier, Falco joined Roberta’s as a part-time pizza maker weeks after opening. There’s similar language to that in many of his interviews.
When discussing his firing from Roberta’s in that interview, he made a reference to being a Roberta’s partner: “I was a partner at that point, when they folded my pizza oven in. I was a partner in the mobile pizza operation. I was doing all of my own books. I was a profit sharing partner. I thought I was Roberta’s for life.”
Profit sharing was not something exclusively extended to Falco at Roberta’s, but Falco seems to be the only one who called himself a partner on the basis of profit sharing alone. You can even go on GlassDoor (a website for employees to anonymously review employers), and you’ll find profit sharing listed as “additional pay” for a manager position at Roberta’s. The value was estimated as approximately $2,000, per year.
A New York Times review of Roberta’s from August of 2011 listed Roberta’s partners at the time as Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Gabe Rosner. Recall that Falco was put in charge of the mobile pizza operation in 2010, when Roberta’s started using his mobile oven.
I’m reminded of a quote from Falco himself: “You’ve gotta be kidding if anyone thinks you were ever a ‘partner’ much less owner/operator.” That was said prior to Falco knowing of Roberta’s; it was a comment made in response to his former partner from a Seattle-based french fry shop which, not unlike some of his other business relationships, saw a tumultuous end.
An employee who worked alongside Falco described his behavior as follows: “[Falco] was constantly showboating himself, putting himself in the limelight… constantly [implying] that he was the head guy there.”
“Fake it ‘till you make it,” perhaps.
After being fired by Roberta’s, Falco transitioned to pizzeria consulting. If you’re an aspiring pizzeria owner, a $10,000 retainer will get you up to a year of “advisement,” with a discount available in exchange for a cut of monthly revenue. His fee for on-site instruction is $1,000 a day (for a ten hour day), plus travel expenses and lodging. The real hook, though, is that Falco will hype up your restaurant on social media, and with just under 24,000 followers on Instagram alone, that’s incredibly valuable.
He discussed his work as a consultant in the aforementioned Vox interview: “There’s this conception that this job is just taking Roberta’s and exporting elsewhere, but there’s not been two clients that have been exactly alike.” Falco was referencing the long-standing industry rumor that the dough recipe he was selling to many of his consulting clients was that of the Roberta’s dough. The key phrase here is “exactly alike,” though it’s worth noting that the slice shops for which Falco consulted, Sauce Pizzeria, Upside Pizza, and Norm’s Pizza, are all significantly different from the pizza at Roberta’s.
The Roberta’s dough recipe isn’t the only thing that Falco has been accused of stealing from them: Roberta’s claimed that after they fired him, Falco conspired to steal their clients and trade secrets to support his new pizza business.
And they kept the receipts: Roberta’s sued Falco and long-time friend Peter Litschi in 2017, citing emails Litschi sent using his Roberta’s email account as evidence. Litschi previously held the same roles as Falco at Roberta’s, Head of Mobile Operations and Director of Pizza operations.
In the previously referenced Smart Pizza Marketing podcast interview, Falco claimed that he was the only person at Roberta’s in the early days who was able to use email: “Because of my tech background, you know, I was the only person at Roberta’s who knew anything, who could check email.” It looks like Roberta’s has figured out how to use email.
Litschi’s job at Roberta’s involved organizing off-site events and pop-ups. Litschi used his Roberta’s email to contact an event organizer for the Panorama Music Festival, which had a partnership with Roberta’s in 2016. Roberta’s alleged that Litschi’s job was to arrange for Roberta’s to cater the Panorama Music Festival in 2017. Instead, Litschi arranged for his pizza startup with Falco to cook at the festival.
Litschi continued to email his contact at the music festival for months after giving official notice of his intent to leave Roberta’s, up until his employment officially terminated. The other emails included as evidence in the suit implying that Litschi abused his position as a Roberta’s employee in other similar ways, including using Roberta’s equipment and ingredients for non-Roberta’s events and instructional classes.
Litschi also used his Roberta’s email to send his Roberta’s confidential profit and loss reports, in an effort to help his and Falco’s new project, which based on emails sent between Litschi and Falco, involved a physical location.
Additionally, Falco was accused of failing to return their mobile pizza oven. Roberta’s claimed that they paid for an oven that was in Falco's custody when he was a Roberta’s employee, and he didn’t return the oven to them when his employment was terminated. Roberta’s alleged that Falco agreed to return the oven to a Roberta’s associated LLC, in an agreement on April 14, 2017.
But Roberta’s claimed that Falco didn’t return the pizza oven, and on June 22, 2017, Falco, sent the LLC an invoice for $53,000. Roberta’s claimed that Falco’s justification for that cost was “lost business”—$15,000 per month. Roberta’s believed that Falco’s invoice was a ploy to get them to give up ownership of the oven.
Anthony Falco and Peter Litschi eventually joined Rad Times Pizza, the pizza-related lifestyle brand founded by their former Roberta’s colleague, Angelo Womack. Together, they catered pop-up events, produced videos, and released apparel.
As with the various firings Falco referenced in his interview with Vox, Falco claimed he didn’t know the reason why Womack “abruptly” cut communication with him in May of 2019. Falco also said that he wanted to get a mediator. When asked for a comment, Womack told me, “Falco can suck it.” Womack has refused to comment on Falco since, citing a non-disparagement clause associated with the Rad Times split.
Falco and Litschi officially separated from Womack’s Rad Times in January 2020, and they formed their own pizza lifestyle brand, Pizza Le Fun. Maybe in addition to a non-disparagement clause, Falco should have had Womack come up with the name of his new brand.
In response to hearing that this article was being written, Falco sent the following message to a mutual friend, which they passed along to me, believing me to be the “little friend” and the intended recipient of what they perceived to be a threat:
Oh sorry meant to send that last one to someone else was Falco’s attempt to establish plausible deniability. With
that, he can claim that the message was intended for someone else. He can even claim that I’m not the little friend,
and that the whole thing was out of context. Maybe he’ll even deny it was a threat at all.
When Falco announced that he wanted to “fuck the shit” out of one of the women working at Roberta’s, he followed that declaration with “but I don’t do that anymore.” With each problematic statement, Falco set himself up with an exit strategy, a way to deny.
Really, it’s all gaslighting. Falco has been described by multiple sources as a “master of apologies.” I wouldn’t be surprised if he read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People and started to believe that he could manipulate anyone.
Falco is a marketer. Given how well he’s marketed himself, he’s an excellent one. The idea that Falco put Roberta’s “on the map” is pervasive. It didn’t come from Roberta’s. It came from Falco—from years of interviews and media appearances, years of his claims unchecked. His identity has been built on the backs of the countless people who made Roberta’s what it is today.
Falco has presented to the world a humble and friendly public figure persona, who’s just trying to make a living and feed his family, who kept his head down for nine years at Roberta’s.
There’s another persona, though, the one who demanded to be “the face” of Roberta’s; who marginalized his coworkers to promote himself; who punches down, objectifies, and gaslights.
That’s a glimpse of the Falco that I know, that Roberta’s knows—the International Pizza Consultant, “the former bigwig chef behind Brooklyn’s famous Roberta’s,” who wouldn’t dare step foot in the restaurant that he claims to have created—the Pretender.