New York-inspired food finds home in Utah County

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Tourists and foodies hit New York City’s crowd-filled pavement, knowing around any mountainous skyscraper, they could potentially find their new favorite bakery, deli or pizza joint.

Now students can hit the pavement in Provo and Orem instead of traveling to the Big Apple to find their favorite New York-style eatery.

Co-owner of Lucy’s New York Style Pizzeria in Orem Tim Wright said people come to his business because his pizza is similar to those found in New York City.

“We are saving you the airfare,” Wright said. “A lot of people rave that we are the closest thing they’ve had since they have been to New York. The only difference is that we are here versus there.”

Lucy’s New York Style Pizzeria opened for business in 2009 and is located on Orem State Street. The pizzeria prides itself on its authenticity and production quality. For Lucy’s, it’s not about the bottom line. It’s about pleasing its customers, and the restaurant’s food does that, according to Wright.

“We are that special place where people say, ‘I get pizza from Lucy’s’,” Wright said.

An Idaho native, Wright grew up surrounded by chain restaurants. He wanted to not only bring authentic New York pizza to Utah, but also bring the East Coast feel to Utah County. He said Lucy’s does just that.

“If you go back east, the majority is mom-and-pop shops,” Wright said. “It’s funny, I talked to a guy from Connecticut about two years ago, and he said he’d get shot if he got caught eating at Olive Garden; his aunt would have killed him. It’s a different culture there. They don’t do the chain thing as much.”

Rocco’s Big City Deli in Provo also transports customers to the streets of New York in its underground subway shop. Diners can choose from a menu of authentic subs, tacos, wings and fries when they descend the stairs into the New York subway-like atmosphere.

Rocco’s owner CJ Gandolph knows and understands New York food having grown up near Flushing, New York. Like Lucy’s, Rocco’s claims to offer customers the same authenticity of the Big Apple.

“We are authentic New Yorkers,” Gandolph said. “We’ve had people come in who are from New York and say, ‘This feels authentic.’ That really adds to what we are trying to do. People who don’t have the opportunity to go to New York get the experience here.”

BYU student and New York native Nicole Pavez said she agrees.

“I enjoy the atmosphere at Rocco’s,” Pavez said. “It makes me feel like I’m at home. It doesn’t look like a typical deli, but it kind of looks like a typical sports bar. There aren’t many delis in Utah, so Rocco’s definitely satisfies my need for a good hero (sandwich).”

The environment created at Rocco’s adds to the New York experience. Customers not only eat original deli-style food and dine surrounded by paintings of the city, but watch New York-based sports in the restaurant.

“We are a little biased with the sports we broadcast,” Gandolph said. “We play our New York sports here.”

The only way to finish off dinner is with a New York style dessert. With ovens ablaze, mixers whirring and feet shuffling quickly back and forth, employees at Chip Cookies are busy preparing for opening time just minutes away.

Brothers and co-founders Stephen and Chris Wirthlin opened Chip Cookies in Nov. 2016. They own the startup with their brother-in-law Sean Wilson. The Wirthlin brothers wanted to make a big city product, so they created a New York-inspired chocolate chip cookie delivery service.

“Being from (Los Angeles) and traveling a lot as a family, we’ve been to bakeries around the world,” Stephen Wirthlin said. “We were kind of going for a big city feel, and we loved the idea of late-night delivery. It’s unbelievable that all you can really get delivered late is pizza. We wanted to offer people another late-night option that they have in the big city.”

Business has been busy ever since Chip Cookies opened its doors, and Provo residents love its product. Stephen Wirthlin said he has experienced that excitement as he has made delivery runs.

“The public’s reaction has been really good,” Stephen Wirthlin said. “When you deliver, sometimes you get what I call ‘screamers’ where you ring the doorbell and they scream before they answer the door because they know it’s our cookies. It’s been cool as an owner to see their reactions personally.”

In addition to Tim Wright and CJ Gandolph, Stephen and Chris Wirthlin believe New York food can be experienced in Provo.

“You don’t really have to go to the big city anymore,” Chris Wirthlin said. “New York is the city that never sleeps, and we are bringing a little of that to Provo.”

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