Eric Palmieri of D. Palmieri’s Bakery on Killingly Street is making pizzas that look too good to eat.
About five years ago, Eric made a basic American Flag pizza for the Fourth of July, with pepperoni stripes and olives for stars.
“People really liked it. It was a nice thing for people’s parties and stuff. It was really simple and not complicated and didn’t take a long time to make, and I did that for a couple of years just for the holiday,” he said.
From there, his creative designs and the demand for them rose faster than pizza dough. Once the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl last year, he thought he could use the same formula to create a Patriots logo pizza with olives and pepperoni.
“I made that Patriots pizza and put a picture of it on Facebook and social media just went crazy with it,” Eric said. “We were then in the Providence Journal and the news and I was like ‘wow.’ I just did it as a fun thing and thought people might buy it for their parties or whatever, and there was just a crazy response to it.”
Eric then thought that he could expand his work to accommodate other occasions, and his creativity snowballed from there. He created his own website, www.ericpalmieri.com, to feature his work and showcase his designs.
“At least once a week, I’d come up with a design for a pizza and sometimes people would call and ask if a certain design could be made and I’d try it,” he said. “It’s just been a blast, it’s been a total blast, I love it and people are really responding to it. It’s just been a whole new thing for me. I can get my creative energies out and it’s just another reason to look forward to work.”
The 33-year-old, married to his wife Lily, has a 7-month-old daughter named Phoebe. He’s lived in North Providence most of his life, attended high school at the Wheeler School and received his degree in music composition at Colorado College before beginning work full time at the bakery 11 years ago. He plays both the piano and guitar and likes to create songs for his daughter when he’s not tossing dough.
“There’s a huge creative part of me,” said Eric. “Food is such a big aspect of any event. If people are enjoying the food then it makes the time that they’re having so much better and if we can be a part of that in any way it’s a really awesome thing.”
The bakery is owned by his father, Stephen, and Eric works alongside his brother, Stephen. His 86-year-old uncle Norman still works there making spinach pies.
A typical day begins at 5 a.m. and Eric will stay at the bakery until 1 p.m. six days a week. Creating art out of food is a challenge. Eric said he likes to use olives for outlines as it allows for better detail. He added that he’s always developing new techniques and trying new foods to add variety. He uses grated cheese, garlic powder and pepper powder for shading. To give it a three-dimensional look he’ll utilize mixed ingredients to achieve the desired effect. According to Eric, no food coloring is added, only the natural color of the ingredients is used.
“One of the problems I have is that I can’t do blue. There are no blue foods, except for blueberries and they’re not really that blue and nobody wants them on a pizza,” said Eric. “I’ve heard there are blue potatoes out there and I’m looking. I feel like that’s part of the fun of it for me, overcoming those challenges.”
All of the works are done by freehand, not with stencils, creating a unique product each time. He is willing to try any design and will even accept pictures of homes, people or pets to place on the pizza. While he’s been very successful, he’s had some failures when ingredients just didn’t work out as planned.
“With faces, that’s really hard. The first time I tried to do that I used a picture of my daughter, and it didn’t look bad, but I definitely messed up a couple of things like the ears and chin, and it did look like her but it also looked like a fake baby doll,” said Eric. He added that his latest challenge is a request to create a screaming Kevin from the Home Alone movie.
Eric first cooks the dough and tomato sauce first for about 45 minutes and then lets it cool. He then places the toppings in picture form and cooks the product for another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted. Any longer and ingredients tend to blend together. Eric said that nearly any ingredient can be used based on customer demand. Typically, he creates about two unique pizzas a week, but that number can skyrocket at any time depending on the time of year.
“Our slogan is “From our kitchen to yours,” and that’s perfect in my mind because that’s how I look at it. I like working with my hands, and with the staff here and the camaraderie, it’s not like working in an office,” said Eric. “It’s just a lot of fun working here, I think just knowing that what I’m making, whether it’s calzones or root beer chicken wings or these pizza designs, or if there’s a 6-year-old out there who wants a pirate pizza for his birthday and gets this really cool pizza and is really excited about it, to me that’s awesome that I can be a part of that.”
Prices for the Christmas works of art range from $39.99 for a small to $69.99 for a full sheet pizza. Eric typically needs about a day’s notice for orders; however, for custom orders Eric requests two days notice. For Christmas and holiday pizzas, Eric will be taking limited orders, so those interested in a holiday pie are asked to order early.
“I want as many people to be able to buy a pizza as possible,” said Eric. “I never know what people are going to request, and that’s fun. I’m willing to try anything. If they want it, I’ll figure out a way to make it happen.”