Some people go their whole life not knowing exactly what they want to be when they grow up. It’s hard for them to find their calling and figure out what they were put on this Earth to do. Then there is the other type of person who knows exactly what they want to do for the rest of their life. For Thomas Richards, his passion began at age nine.
From Miami, to Cleveland, to New York, to Bangor— Richards, 32, has tossed pizza pies in some of the biggest cities in the country. Throughout his career, he has worked with diverse groups of people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but it is from the Italians where he learned his most valuable trade.
Starting out at a restaurant in Lower West Side Manhattan, Richards’ boss did not give him much sympathy for any mistakes.
“They kind of mistreat you,” said Richards. “They’re really loud, they slap you around. They were like the mafia basically.”
The hostile work environment, along with the immense pressure, limited the number of mistakes Richards would make. He didn’t have much of a choice. If he slipped up, his boss would either hit him or take his money. He quickly learned how to make the perfect pizza.
THE START OF A BUSINESS
In 2004, it was time for a change. Richards set out to work at a pizzeria in Miami, Florida. He preferred the fast-paced, congested work environment in the Sunshine State. It was only five years later that he moved up to Old Orchard Beach in Maine to work at Roma Pizza. This was where Bangor Pizza and Subs owner Rafi Jacobi met Thomas Richards.
“The reason I went to Roma Pizza in Old Orchard Beach was to eat the Ricotta Cheese pizza,” said Jacobi. “So that’s why all of this started. It started with a pizza slice and then I opened my own pizzeria.”
Richards now works at Bangor Pizza and Subs making pizzas and pastas.
Rafi Jacobi emphasized that he needed a good team of employees to make the restaurant a success. Passion for both the business and the food is the most important aspect.
“Tom is breathing, eating, living the food,” said Jacobi. “Especially pizza and pasta. It is in his genes. It is in his being.”
PASSION MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Along with passion comes great food and service. It is what separates Bangor Pizza and Subs from other local pizzerias and eateries.
“The food is special because here we do everything from scratch,” said Richards. “We roast our onions in garlic, we bring them down into a puree and we put them in the sauce. Everything is a little more handmade here making it more authentic and tasting better.”
Richards also revealed that they take the seeds out of the tomatoes making the sauce less bitter and extending the sauce’s shelf life. Certain techniques and tricks come from his experiences at numerous pizzerias. He took all the different ways of making pizza and made his own type of recipe.
Exceptional customer service comes from those passionate workers who care about their customers’ satisfaction.
“We fix any problem right away,” said Jacobi. “A lot of attention to the small details will make people come back.”
A HOME FOR THE COMMUNITY
Since the restaurant is located in the Bangor Mall, a lot of the customers come from all over the state, country or world. Rafi Jacobi has high hopes that Bangor Pizza and Subs will be a hot spot for not just tourists, but locals as well.
“We want to be part of the community more than anything else,” said Jacobi. “Not just be the destination for one-day shoppers stopping by, but the destination for those who want to take their family to Bangor Pizza and Subs.”
So far, the restaurant has had a very positive response. Business is not only picking up because of the holidays, but because they are starting to get regulars who are picking up whole pizza pies to take home.
“This really helps business with regulars coming in,” said Jacobi. “People have been saying it’s the best pizza in town.”
It could go without saying that the pizza is the most popular food item on the menu. The absolute favorite is the Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza while the Tomato Ricotta Cheese is a close second place.
Garlic knots and garlic bread are also featured and they are commonly paired with a slice of pizza.
There is also a variety of sub and burger baskets that range from $4.99 to $10.99. Cheeseburger, chicken finger, red hot dog, steak and cheese, and foot-long sub baskets are all delicious options.
A WORK IN PROGRESS
The restaurant has only been open for seven weeks so there are still many improvements to come. This includes new signage, menu boards and a website. They will also start delivering pizza to the Bangor area once the holiday season is over. Ordering online will be an option as well.
Bangor Pizza and Subs can be found on Facebook by searching the restaurant’s name. The reviews online have so far been predominantly positive. There are such comments as, “The sign says Bangor Pizza and Subs… The taste says New York. So delicious!” and “New York style pizza [is the] best we have found here in Maine and the people are very helpful.”
Rafi Jacobi is set on making Bangor Pizza and Subs a place for families in the community to come and grab a slice (or a whole pie) again and again. He knows that the outstanding customer service and passion for the food creates the type of atmosphere that people want to revisit.
“It’s not just another pizza. It’s good pizza.”