Welcome Liberty Hill’s newest slice of the pie

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By ANTHONY FLORES

Tucked away in a shopping center across from Liberty Hill Elementary, Fratelli Pizza is taking the community by storm with their New York-style pizza.

An extension of its sibling restaurant in Bertram, Fratelli is run by 27-year-old Nuki Pjetrovic, with the help of his father Nisko and his chef Agron Hoti. Just a month after opening their doors, the young business owner is stunned at the response from the community.

“My uncle has the one in Bertram and Mambo Italiano. So, he brought us here to check the area, and we loved the community out here,” Nuki said. “We didn’t expect the business to boom right away. The people out here are like one big family. The community reminds me of back home where my dad comes from. It’s a small town, and everybody knows each other. It’s beautiful here.”

Nuki’s father is a veteran of the pizza business and the perfect guide to help his son achieve his goals of growing his new restaurant.

“I’ve made pizza for 40 years. My brother used to work for Italians back in New Jersey, and he came to Dallas and opened his business in 1978,” Nuki’s father Nisko said. “It’s hard work, long hours, but I mean, I don’t know anything else to do.”

Hoti, an experienced chef for many years, started from humble beginnings in the kitchen as a dishwasher for Nuki’s father. Hoti believes the experience of rising through the ranks serves him far more than any kind of formal education.

“I’m a chef, so I started in the kitchen, washing dishes, and worked my way up. I don’t have any diplomas, but I’ve been to culinary institutes where the instructors invited me to give lessons to kids up north,” he said. “I went and demonstrated how to make cheese, how to make pasta from scratch, how to make pizza dough from scratch.”

Facing the uphill climb of owning and cultivating a young business, Nuki makes no qualms when admitting that he needs Hoti and his father as pillars of support.

“Agron, he’s from Brooklyn, he’s my solution to every problem I have. My dad is my backbone. He works his butt off. He preps the dough, he comes in 13, maybe 14 hours a day,” he said. “It’s nothing without family. I appreciate the work they do so much. For me to be a business owner and have these two guys beside me and guiding me is everything.”

As a young business owner, Nuki is learning to manage all the growing pains and stresses that come with his venture. As time passes, the burden is becoming lighter.

“At first, it was hard and very stressful. I was grabbing my forehead and thinking about how insane it was and how I didn’t know it was like this,” Nuki said. “After one month, the weight just came off my shoulders. We learned how to rearrange things so it could benefit all the workers. Every day it’s less stress and more weight off my shoulders.”

Nuki admits that as a child, he was spoiled and would take his father’s lessons for granted. With life experience under his belt, Nuki understands the value of what his father was doing.

“I was the only son. My dad would try and teach me things as a kid, and I used to not want to listen to him. As I grew older, I admired everything he told me and all the lessons he would try and teach me. I love him for that.”

Thrown into the deep end of the pool, Nuki appreciates having to sink or swim. The young business owner believes his father and uncle are doing what’s best to help him grow on his own and forge his own path.

“With this as my first business, my uncle and my dad are teaching me the hard way,” he said. “They aren’t giving me everything. I’m using what we make here to upgrade. They’re teaching me the right way and not the easy way, like when I was a kid and spoiled.”

The artist
While Nuki focuses on the business aspect of things, the kitchen serves as Hoti’s playground. His studio where he can craft different works of art, like one of their signature pies, the Monte Cristo.

The Monte Cristo is a stuffed pizza with ham, turkey, swiss, mozzarella, egg-washed and sprinkled with powdered sugar with grape jelly on the side.

“When somebody lets you take the handcuff off as far as somebody that does this with a passion, when somebody sits down and says do what you want, I’m going crazy back there,” he said. “Once we get where we want to be, you’re not going to see the pizzas that we’re pumping out in big cities. I came down here, and we’re going to make it happen. This will be the spot where you go if you’re open-minded and you want to try different things. I like fusing the kitchen aspect of it into pizza, something you would normally get on a plate, and try and create that on a pizza where you can grab and go.”

For Hoti, freshness is one of the most critical parts of providing customers with genuine experience. Patience is key to creating a pizza that goes beyond what can be found at a chain restaurant.

“If I wouldn’t feed it to my family, I wouldn’t sell it to you. Everything is made to order, and that’s a big difference,” he said. “Some people don’t want to wait or have patience and want everything instantly. At a gas station, you can get a pizza, but it’ll be sitting there for a while. Here you come in and order it, and we make it how you want it here.”

Hoti believes the edge they have over grab-and-go pie places is their ingredients are fresh or homemade. Pizza dough is made from scratch, toppings are chopped and prepped fresh, and eventually, mozzarella will be made in house once a week.

“What a difference when you make your own homemade dough like we are. Anybody can get pizza anywhere. If you go to any corner store or gas station, you can get a pizza nowadays anywhere,” he said. “The difference between a mom and pop shop like this is that we actually make the dough in house. You have to take everything into consideration, like humidity. You have to know how much yeast to put in the dough, so you’re always consistent with it. When you make things fresh, it’s hard to keep up with. You have to have everything on point.”

The future
As Nuki looks at the future of his business and the first weeks since opening, two things are apparent. Upgrades to equipment like the pizza oven are needed to meet the unexpected demand and the need for new employees that are knowledgeable and prepared to get into the kitchen.

“The most difficult thing I would say is the startup because there’s still a couple of things we have to upgrade in here so we can handle faster service for more orders,” he said. “It takes time to find a couple of employees that you can see want to learn and be loyal and work hard. Right now, it’s just us three and my mother and my sister. I’ve been trying to find a couple of workers. I’ve had some walk-ins, but they didn’t know how to even dice onions or took almost 30 minutes to wash one dish.”

Even after working for hours on end multiple days of the week, the bond between Nuki, Nisko, and Hoti is tighter than ever.

“What’s cool is after working all day, sometimes 13 or 14 hours a day together, you would think we would hate each other’s guts, but we actually go out for a beer after work. Even after work, we still hang out,” Hoti said.

To Nuki, working alongside his relatives and someone he sees as family is more than he could ask for as he makes his way forward with his dream.

“I used to do transportation and logistics, I was an operations manager, and I worked young in my dad’s restaurant in Fort Worth. I wanted to do my own thing,” he said. “Our first week was so hectic, and there was so much support out here, it was unbelievable. There’s more support here than we’ve seen in bigger cities. Doing this with my family means everything to me. They’re right in front of me and right behind me, supporting me. They’re there for me at all times. It means the world to me.”

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