Anthony Valinoti is a hugger. The energetic and engaging owner of Deluca’s Pizzaria in Hot Springs embraces nearly everyone he meets and often with no regard for the pizza flour he may have on his hands. He’s left many a handprint on the backs of pizza fans in the Spa City. But an announcement that he is moving to a new space in the 800 block of Central Ave. means that flour may be sawdust while construction goes on.
“This is an incredible vista now on to Central Avenue,” he said to friends and contractors as he looked out the newly installed front bay doors. “I mean it's just unbelievably amazing. You know we're moving into a great, great neighborhood. We really are.”
Since opening five years ago, Delucas has won accolades for its New York-style pizza and spurred a growth spurt among competitors. Soon to be a block away is Sqzbx Brewery & Pizza Joint. Greatful Head Pizza and Beer Garden is a block off Bathhouse Row on Exchange St. They join old stalwarts, Rod's Pizza Cellar south of downtown and Rocky's Corner, across from Oaklawn.
But don't call it a pizza war.
“Heck no,” Valinoti said. “Everybody says this. People want to judge pizza. It doesn't matter. Every pizza is good pizza.”
According to the local chamber of commerce, there's plenty of pie to go around.
“Since the Majestic fire [in 2014] we've seen over 100 new businesses open,” said Cole McCaskill, vice president for economic development with the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. “Over 80 properties have been bought and sold and over 80 million dollars has been invested.”
Valinoti has nothing bad to say about his old location on Park Ave. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods north of downtown. McCaskill says the section of the city has tremendous potential as a residential area and is poised to take advantage as the downtown businesses expand.
“This was matter of a friend who found a better space for us that suited the needs of a growing business,” Valinoiti said. He is already leaving his mark, putting handprints in new cement outside his soon-to-be pizza kitchen. They will be permanent, unlike his dusty backslaps.
The old store will be open through Sept. 29, followed by a grand reopening Oct. 11 on Central. Hours will expand thanks to more pizza ovens and a full bar. Lunch hours may be added next year when racing returns to Hot Springs.