The familiar sights and sounds of children and families talking and laughing as they munch on pizza and sip soda returned to Fierro’s Pizza last Thursday. Al Fierro, a co-founder of the pizzeria, which opened at 104 Park Place in East Hampton in 1983, was back behind the counter, along with Stephen Hickey, his new business partner. A portrait of Mr. Fierro’s father, Albert Fierro Jr., looked down from a wall by the counter and a Yankees preseason game played out on the television overhead. All was right in this little slice of the universe.
“They haven’t had the pizza in about two weeks, so they’re kind of jonesing a little bit,” said Mr. Fierro, gesturing to the children who filled nearly every table. “But this is the after-school hit that we get every day.”
Mr. Fierro and Mr. Hickey had just completed a renovation of the restaurant: new ovens and furniture, a new ceiling, newly painted walls. This, after Mr. Fierro, his brother, John, and their mother, Barbara, sold the business in 2007.
It was only about six months ago, said Mr. Hickey, that he and Mr. Fierro bought the business from Claude Cardin, to whom the Fierros had sold it. “It was really exciting for both of us, because we’d looked at other opportunities over the years,” he said. “Al and I wanted to go into partnership together in some type of restaurant, but we never dreamed that this opportunity would arise. It was a blessing that we waited.”
The partners had met and worked together at Indian Wells Tavern in Amagansett, where Mr. Fierro was a bartender and Mr. Hickey a member of the waitstaff. “I had no other restaurant experience,” said Mr. Hickey, who moved to the South Fork from Connecticut in 2008 to care for his ailing father. The job at the tavern, he said, provided essential on-the-job training. “I figured I’d do whatever they told me to do. It really helped, learning the business from the ground up. But if there was anybody I would have done this with, it was only going to be Al. I was leaning on his expertise.”
Mr. Fierro has plenty of it. With his family, he’s operated pizzerias UpIsland, in Farmingville and Shirley. Being back in the restaurant that bears his name, he said, “feels like I came back home — I kind of grew up in this building.”
After the summer, Mr. Fierro said, he may make some adjustments to the menu, but the offerings will remain consistent with what patrons have come to know and expect. “Our chicken rolls are great,” he said. “We make some great crispy chicken salads, chicken tenders, and the wings are great. We’ll have some great gelato in the summertime. But we’re here for pizza. And of course, the lottery — I don’t have to tell anybody about that.”
Mr. Hickey is thrilled to be part of the once-and-present ownership. “Al has people who have come here since they were 10 years old, and now they’re coming in with their own 10-year-olds,” he said. “He’s a staple of the community, so it was really special for him to get back into the business. I feel blessed to be part of it. We’re excited.”