Zappers Pizzeria & Bar will debut in East Asheville just in time for Super Bowl weekend. The restaurant is taking over the 90 S. Tunnel Road location that housed Asheville landmark Frank’s Roman Pizza for nearly 40 years until it closed in November.
Zappers will sling authentic New York-style pizza alongside classic pasta dishes, subs, salads and bar food staples like chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. The new restaurant will also prominently feature two flat-screen televisions for sports and entertainment, as well as a massive full-service bar serving cocktails, wine and a variety of local and national beers.
The restaurant is the creation of Asheville resident John Falk II. Falk is the co-owner of Whitley Home Medical Equipment in Hendersonville, and while this marks his first professional foray into the food and beverage industry, he comes from a family well-versed in the pizza business. Falk’s father owns Zappers Pizzeria in Shady Spring, W. Va., where his brother, Justin Falk, gained 15 years of experience tossing pizzas.
“I was just ready to do something on my own,” says Falk. “And a pizza business made a lot of sense considering I can work closely with my brother and consult with my dad.” Falk also notes that even though the Asheville Zappers will share the same name as his father’s West Virginia location, it will feature a totally different menu and recipes.
Falk and his brother, who recently relocated to Asheville from West Virginia, will tag-team running the operation, and he says that overall the business will involve the whole family. “I’ve got some incredible cooks in my family,” says Falk. “My wife and father-in-law are really great cooks as well, so we’ve got a lot of great recipes to pull from. And my wife actually found the location after hearing that Frank’s closed,” says John. “No one could believe Frank’s closed down.”
Frank’s Roman Pizza was originally founded by Frank Palmeri in 1977. “Frank came straight from New York,” says Falk. “Before him there was only a Pizza Hut in town.” Palmeri eventually retired in 2001, passing along the business to longtime employee Barry Gardner.
Despite having a lot of faithful followers, Frank’s closed in November amid controversy between Palmeri, who still owns the property, and Gardner. In the end, Gardner says, “I was tired and ready to move on to the next chapter of my life,” after having spent “a wonderful 28 years in the industry.”
Although the name of the business is changing, Falk says Palmeri is pleased the pizza tradition will continue in the space. “Frank was excited to see another pizza place take over. He’s a really cool guy,” says Falk.
Falk and his brother have been feverishly renovating and remodeling the location since November. The kitchen was in dire need of an overhaul, and the whole space needed repainting and general modernization, says Falk. But an effort is definitely being made to maintain some elements from Frank’s.
Falk says he and his wife had been fans of Frank’s Roman Pizza and love the idea of paying homage to the former location at Zappers. “I kept Frank’s old oven doors and pizza pans — these things are probably 40 years old — and I have them mounted up on the wall,” says Falk.
A major feature of Zappers will be a sprawling wooden bar. Falk worked with Sunrise Sawmill in Asheville to create 13 6-foot slabs of solid oak to use for the bar surface. “They’re beautiful and probably weigh about 300 pounds per piece,” says Falk.
Zappers also contains a large back dining area that will slowly be renovated over the coming months, and Falk says he eventually wants to create a stage in the back for live music. “I think we’ll really become known for our bar and pizzas,” he says. “We have an amazing brick oven and are really excited about our pizza sauce and other ingredients.”
The pizzas will be made with buffalo milk cheese, tomato paste, pepperoni and items imported from Italy. “The sauce we’ll be a combination of things and will really create that amazing New York-style texture in your mouth,” Falk says.
Traditional pasta dishes like penne alla vodka and spaghetti and meatballs will also be featured along with entrées like chicken Parmesan. Meatball and other subs will also be served along with a variety of salads and appetizers.
Falk says he plans to have some fun with the menu and mix things up. “Actually, Frank Palmeri Jr., who I’ve been dealing with a lot, had a special request for the menu. He said, ‘There’s nowhere in town where I can get a Philly cheesesteak sandwich.’ So we’re still going to be a pizzeria, but I told him we’ll have a Philly cheesesteak — ‘Frank’s Philly cheesesteak’ — on the menu, with Cheez Whiz and everything, the authentic way,” says Falk with a laugh.
The neighborhood pizza joint will be open daily for lunch and dinner, with eventual plans for a delivery service. The business will celebrate its grand opening with a Super Bowl Sunday special all day on Feb. 5 — two large two-topping pizzas, plus an order of wings and a 2-liter soda for $19.99.
Zappers Pizzeria & Bar is at 90 S. Tunnel Road. For details and updates on the opening, like the restaurant on Facebook or call 828-298-5855.