By Christine Graf
Six months after closing the Halfmoon Sandwich Shop, partners Melissa Craine and Sean Lee opened Bella Lucia Pizzeria at 1218 Route 146 in Clifton Park.
The couple previously owned Rocco’s, a fine dining establishment in Jonesville.
Before closing their Halfmoon eatery in August, they had attempted to purchase the building that they had leased for 15 years.
“We were really confident that we would be able to purchase the sandwich shop building on Route 9, but unfortunately we were unable to come to terms that would have been beneficial to both parties,” said Craine.
By that time, they had already purchased the Route 146 property with plans of opening a second restaurant, a pizzeria. The unexpected closing of the sandwich shop presented them with the opportunity to focus all of their energy on Bella Lucia.
“During that time, we went down to (New York City) to a pizza school in Staten Island called Goodfellas Pizza School. For us, it was a refresher, a confidence booster, and a way to get some extra know-how,” said Craine. “Even though we have been in the restaurant industry in many different facets for many years, pizza is new to us.”
Although Bella Lucia is billed as a pizzeria, the menu includes more than pizza and calzones. It also features hot and cold sandwiches, salads, wings, appetizer, pasta dinners, and chicken dinners.
The restaurant does not serve alcohol.
“It’s called a pizzeria, but we don’t ever like to stick ourselves inside of one box. That’s just not who we are. Cooking is a craft, and we are artists as far as we are concerned,” she said. “We are going to continue serving the best ingredients, great combinations, and good food.”
The bread that is used for their sandwiches is delivered fresh each day from Rockland Bakery which is located just outside of New York City. Their pizza dough will be made in-house from a recipe that Lee spent three years perfecting. A gluten free option will also be available.
“I believe that people are really going to enjoy our pizza,” said Craine. “For me, you can’t have the flop and you have to have the crunch. I’m from Long Island, and as far as I’m concerned that’s what true pizza is. Aside from importing water from down state, this is as close as you are going to get to a true New York pizza.”
Bella Lucia also has a catering menu that will include everything from party heroes to chicken, pasta, and meat entrees.
On-site dining is available, and the pizzeria is be staffed by 12 employees. Eleven of those employees were previously employed at the Halfmoon Sandwich Shop.
Craine and Lee purchased the Bella Lucia property in October 2021 from the owners of Stromboli’s Pizza and Grill. Although the previous owners had completely renovated the building, they were never able to open their doors due to health-related issues.
“The building was turnkey when we bought it,” said Craine. “Everything in there was brand new. We just went in and painted, put up new lighting, and expanded the counter.”
Craine said she is hopeful that the loyal customer base that they built over the past 15 years at the Halfmoon Sandwich Shop will embrace the pizzeria and all it has to offer.
“It was really devastating to have to close the sandwich shop because we had so many customers who really became like family. It wasn’t until we closed that I realized what an impact our restaurant made on the community. We are very hopeful that the supporters of the sandwich shop will come with us to the new location.”
“There are about 92 restaurants in Clifton Park, so we know that the competition is steep. We are confident that the relationships that we have formed with the community over the last decade and a half are going to carry us through. Right now, we’re feeling very excited and thankful.”
Although she and Lee have no immediate plans of opening another new restaurant, she said it’s not out of the question.
Bella Lucia Pizzeria is open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 7 p.m. It is closed on Monday.
For more information, visit bellaluciacliftonpark.com. The phone number is 518-371-2902.