High school friends Si Mendoza and Danny Caplinger met in Naples, Florida when they worked together at a pizza restaurant. In 2009, they decided to launch their own pizzeria, so they modeled their restaurant after their employer’s business and started to look for an ideal location.
“At the time we were looking at building a location, Fort Bend County was doing the best. It was an island, people were just flocking,” Mendoza said.
Although they had no connection to Richmond, he said the area drew them in because of the family-focused atmosphere. In April 2009 they opened Il Primo Pizza & Wings at 8019 W. Grand Parkway S., Ste. 1035.
Mendoza said one reason they chose the location is because it has enough space to seat roughly a hundred people, which allows them the space to host fundraisers and community events.
“Here in Richmond, it still has that classic neighborhood feeling. People know each other’s names. For us, it’s been an amazing experience,” he said.
Mendoza said the pizza business is competitive, especially with major chains dominating strip malls and the economic downturn that has left people with less disposable income.
“The restaurant business is very aggressive,” he said. “A lot of chefs will start with a food truck and work up to a brick-and-mortar, but now the trend is the opposite.”
To fuel the company’s growth, Mendoza and Caplinger built a custom food truck. They plan to drive the truck to the George R. Brown Convention Center for the Super Bowl in February.
Mendoza designed the interior of the truck with a full pizza oven, refrigerators and a fryer, while Caplinger designed the exterior to advertise the Richmond location.
“It’s a commissary, basically. We can bring people back to the store,” Mendoza said. “That’s my favorite part about this business—you have to be creative, you have to be aggressive.”
MOST POPULAR PIZZAS ($14.99-$19.99)
Bacon cheeseburger: bacon, mozzarella, cheddar and double meatball
Il Primo special: pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage, onions, bell peppers, black olives, extra cheese
II PRIMO PIZZA & WINGS
8019 W. Grand Parkway S., Ste. 1035
Hours: Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.