EAST HARLEM — A century-old former marble workshop that has served as a garage for an eco-friendly pizza truck will debut as a 40-person restaurant dishing up pies, salads and sandwiches Friday.
For Max Crespo, 41, the owner of Neapolitan Express, opening the truck's first brick-and-mortar location at 232 E. 111th St. is the next major step in what he hopes will be a national eco-friendly pizza empire.
“This has been the plan all along,” he said. “Unfortunately plans don’t happen overnight.”
Although it’s only been around for a couple of years, the truck has become a fixture in Midtown.
Now, with a second permanent location opening in Lower Manhattan next week and plans for national expansion, Crespo is hoping to bring his eco-consciousness to the masses.
Like the truck, which uses alternative fuel to burn 90 percent less carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, the East 111th Street restaurant will be all about sustainability, Crespo said.
The bricks, wood and ceramic tiles are all reclaimed, all of the appliances are electric, and there are even solar panels on the roof.
It's a commitment Crespo takes seriously. When a shipment of tables arrived and he found out they weren't made from reclaimed wood, he sent them back. He has also returned pizza trucks he had specially made at a factory in Indiana because the natural gas-fueled vehicles "weren't perfect," he said.
"Attention to detail is important," he added.
Crespo's thoughtfulness doesn't end there.
“I don’t really like to talk about it, I just did what anyone else would’ve done,” said Crespo, who has kept in touch with Green. “She reached out to me not too long ago. She’s doing great back in London. She’s engaged.”
Crespo, who grew up on Pleasant Avenue and still lives in the neighborhood, became interested in sustainability when he was a child. A lot of his friends and family had asthma and other respiratory problems.
“Growing up, everybody had an inhaler,” he said. “I got seven people working here that have inhalers.”
Opening permanent locations will also allow Crespo to expand the menu. He recruited Guilo Adriana, who owns Forcella and has won four Pizza World Championships, to help fine-tune the pies.
Additionally, Neapolitan Express will introduce a line of salads and panuozzo — baked pizza dough sandwiches.
A week after opening the East 111th Street pizza shop, Neapolitan Express will open its second location at 40 Wall St. inside the Trump Building.
And he's not stopping there.
Crespo teamed up with Fransmart — a franchise development company that has worked with Five Guys Burgers and Qdoba Mexican Grill — to expand Neapolitan Express Mobile Pizzerias to a national level.