Jay Jerrier of Il Cane Rosso on Guy Fieri, Naples and Making Peace with Yelp

Categories: Interviews

JayandDino.jpg
Joy Zhang
Jay Jerrier (left) in pizza pit at Il Cane Rosso.
In one quick year, Il Cane Rosso has become the most esteemed pizza joint in Dallas. Owner Jay Jerrier discovered this style of Neapolitan pizza while on a trip in Naples with his wife in 1995 and has worked diligently to bring the same pizza experience to Dallas. Recently Guy Fieri and the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives crew stopped by to film an episode, which will air early next year. Recently Jay sat down with us to talk about Fieri, the Dallas food scene and why he's always yelling at his Neapolitan pizza man.

How does a guy with a career crunching numbers at GE Capital get in the pizza business?
Working for GE Capital gave me a really good foundation for running this business. It's all about what gets measured and managed. It taught me about attention to detail, like knowing what our unit cost is for all our pizzas. We measure cost down to the gram. There's a lot of passion that goes into our food, but there's also a lot of science in why we do what we do. GE also taught me about continuous performance improvement and constantly staying ahead of the curve. We knew that everyone liked our pizza, but I brought Dino in (the pizza maker from Naples) because I thought we could be better. Instead of just sitting back, we look ahead. That's a GE thing.

Did you ever envision that it would take off like it has?
No. Obviously this is ridiculous. We're under a lucky star. We love what we do. I think that's what makes this work is that I'm always here. People can come in here and talk to me.

What other factors contribute to the success of this place?
We were very careful about things. I walked away from so many spaces. I looked at every vacant restaurant in Dallas. From Plano, Frisco, East Dallas, Preston Hollow and Fort Worth. Someone always told me, "You need to be willing to walk away." Then, it goes back to GE -- it's got to make financial sense. I had seen restaurants that had overbuilt spaces and were undercapitalized, and I did not want to be in that situation. I didn't want to stress about, "Oh my God, we gotta be open for lunch or we're not gonna make it."

But, down here in Deep Ellum the landlords were willing to do a lot of really cool stuff for us and I love the architecture down here. I was so tired of looking at generic aluminum storefronts with glass windows. I came in here and I loved the brick walls and exposed beams in the ceilings. The landlord made a great deal and so it was great.

Luckily, starting the catering company first, we already had a built in fan base. And I just love the neighborhood, the residents, and neighborhood organization; it's like an actual neighborhood. We have a lot of locals that are regulars.

Previously, you made no bones about the fact that you aren't crazy about the suburbs. Did you catch any flack about that?
From a few people, but I live in a suburb. The thing is, most people just want as much pizza as they can get for a little as they can get it. And I had verifiable data to prove it -- the demographics look amazing on paper, but it was at a $5 per person average check, because four people come and they split one large pizza and four waters. And they sit there for two hours. At one point some guys up there showed me some research that the number one restaurant people wanted up north was a Cracker Barrel and I was like "I'm done."

At the end of the day Dallas is really provincial. I have people that live in Preston Royal and it's a seven minute drive down here and they won't come down here.

Does that mentality hurts Dallas?
I wish people would take more chances. I think it's hard for small independent restaurants to thrive in the suburbs. And the people in the suburbs aren't willing to drive.


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44 comments
Matt Wolfgang
Matt Wolfgang

"Was the whole experience more exhausting then you thought it would be? "

*Than*

Really?

capguy
capguy

I love the pizza and now after reading this article I love this guy!!!!!!!!

Stephanie Schumacher
Stephanie Schumacher

I visited da'Michele in Naples, Italy- the first pizzeria, well, ever- and Cane Rosso is as close as it gets.  Great job, Jay and thank you for believing in Deep Ellum.   

Jessica
Jessica

I am a 26 years old girl, down to earth and cute but still single ... I  wanna find my lover who  can give me a real love,so I joined in the seekcasual.COM,it's the best club for  man and woman finding their intimate encounters. Well, you do not have to be lonely , you  can meet the Mr. or Miss. Right there.

Karl Muller
Karl Muller

Jay and his team do an amazing job.  Their commitment to excellence is second to none.  And, they make you feel like family to boot.  Great place, great staff, and great food.  I don't know how Jay can top 2011, but I'm betting he'll make a run for it.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

I have been to Naples and Caserta and Jay's pizza would fit right in.  Far and away my favorite pizza in Dallas.  Thx, Jay.

Guest
Guest

Jay, you're a real gem! Owning and running a (popular) restaurant is not easy but, you make it look easy. I love your pizza and, I love Cane Rosso. Keep up the great work. You deserve all the success you have received and will continue to receive.I take my hat off to you.

Beda
Beda

The rap on people living in the suburbs not going to your restaurant and all the baggage contained in the phrase "those who live in the suburbs" is a little harsh.   I live in Little Forest Hills, and I don't drive to restaurants that aren't within a 10 mile range or so from my house.  If I do, it's the exception (no dim sum restaurants in my neck of the woods).  Goodfriend is in my neighborhood and a restaurant I would potentially frequent, but the Londoner is not in my neighborhood, and I probably wouldn't go, no matter how good the food might be (I've never been there so I use it strictly as a for instance).  I would think the majority of people choose places in their neighborhood.  Dough is in Preston Hollow and Eno's is in Oak Cliff, Zanata and Urban Crust are in Plano - all neighborhood places, and none of them, by the way, are in the same league as your Cracker Barrel example.    There are people who fit your example of splitting a large pizza and just ordering water in ALL neighborhoods.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

Glad to see that the empirical data bears out what Ive always witnessed.

People in the burbs are annoying They make tons of substitutions to accommodate their kids fake allergiesthey want a good deal then occupy your spacedont manage their kids running wild all over the joint and then chat on end like they are in their neighbors backyard

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

I truly hate reading comments about restaurants food.  Everyone has different taste buds and differing opinions on how food should taste.  I generally ignore them, but i pya more close attention to service based comments. 

MattL1
MattL1

"We'll put a pizza down in front of someone and before they even get a slice, out come the phones to take a picture and post it on Facebook."

Guilty.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Actually I didn't find that opinion harsh at all, and it conforms to my sister's experience in Plano.  Their regular pizza is delivered, the high end is California Pizza.  There are reasons for these choices: delivering mega calories to hungry teens, reducing time spent on food eating and preparation, budgets, etc.  I live near downtown and never go to Plano restaurants, unless I am meeting my sister at the California pizza place.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

The first restaurant he mentions as places he likes to eat in Dallas....

is Jasper's. In Plano.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Good job Beda!  And don't fall for that Urban elite bullsh+t.  I like sleeping knowing that my whole family is safe, and not going to be mowed down by a rogue gang.  

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

That is another reason I don't eat in Plano.  I have actually had a kid (from a group of atleast 5 kids and three mothers) throw wadded up paper at me, continuously.  Moms pretended to be oblivious until I threw one back (after asking the Moms to control their heathens), at which point they were ready to call 911 on me.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Glad to see that the empirical data bears out what Ive always witnessed.

People in the dirty city are annoying, dirty smelly, and think they are coolThey make tons of substitutions to PROVE they are hip "like dat"they have to lock up all there sh+t every night, because, it WILL BE stolendon't have kids, but enjoy being Metrosexual.....actually they hate kids!then try to rub to nickles together to get dinner at Jack's (not Perkins, but, In The Box)

Never leave the city, and/or never crave a safe place with good schools, infrastructure, and a government THAT is not smitten cronyism and corruption.  Dallas City is a fucking dump..........people from other cities laugh at you all, because you live in a dingy, decaying sewer.  AND THAT'S cool.  You can have it.

Bjorn
Bjorn

me too but i want to show EVERYONE how awesome it is. i could eat it daily

Kergo 1 Spaceship (by X-mas!)
Kergo 1 Spaceship (by X-mas!)

Matt,    Tell em, we've got pizza places like this ALL over Boston.......big deal?  We need to work on having a decent BBQ place.  Hell man, if'n I want good Italian, I'll make it!  Do you blacklanders really think that someone from somewhere else is going to come here, have a pizza, and say that was GREAT!  My family comes down from Boston to have BBQ, and all I've got to give is a coupla joints.  Let's get movin' folks.  That's it; I'm breakin' out the smoker, the shiner, the brisket, the chicken wang.......move over Coopers, move over BBQ Barn, move over Mike Anderson's, move over Soul Man's.  Oh yeah, and hot dogs also-for the kid.  

So let's have a big New England cheer for the:-Red Sox-Big Bad Bruins-Pats, and Tommy terrific!-Bobby Orr-Cam Neely-and finally Yaz, and El Tiante'

Guest
Guest

Went to Sal's once and got horrible food poisoning. Sal's is a horrible excuse for Italian food. You can have it! I wouldn't eat there on a bet. And besides, if that's where you like to eat, I know I'd never want go there. Kergo, you wouldn't know good food if you stepped in it.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Plano also has a Coal Vine, a Fireside, a Sal's, Goodfella's, and Grimaldi's in Allen is also an option.

Are there obnoxious people in Plano? Hell yes there are. Is Dallas the poster city for sophistication and proper parents? Ha!

Sorry, Dallas dicksuckers, you're doing the equivalent of bragging about wearing Cole Haan shoes to people wearing Johnston & Murphys--it's basically the same damn thing. You're not Bruno Magli, get over yourselves.

Beda
Beda

It was painting suburbs and people who live there with a broad brush stroke that I found offensive.  And you are relying on your sister's opinion to form your opinion, so it just continues.  Ask someone in Plano who loves Uban Crust or Zanata and they will give you a different opinion.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

You guys actually read the articles?  I mean, if it's LDD, sure I'll glance (she's a good writer/critic thingy) at it, but no WAY I dedicate more than 1 minute to said reading.  Too busy!  I just enjoy the absurd comments, and people talking up how cool they are, and blah blah blah.  The only service I've received from this blog in the past month was the blurb on Specs, and it was good, and I did visit, and buy booze and food. Guess what?  That one was written by LDD....go figure. 

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Kergs, the only thing I have to worry about is a rogue coyote threatening a goat..and I have a doggie on patrol for that.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Them toeheads act right, out here in the West.  Or else.  It's the parents fault, not the childs.  You should've wadded up your napkin and fired it off at the broad that wasn't watching her kiddoes.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

Non-White doenst always equal dirty, dangerous and criminal but keep pushing the story and throw in that our schools suck too. The more the better 

Acgunter
Acgunter

"Like dat"?? How old are you?

Coleman
Coleman

man, someone is maaaad

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Shit, Kergo.  We don't have decent italian, nothing like the fish houses in Boston, even the chinese food.  But Boston is what, almost 400 years old?  Dallas probably didn't have a paved road until 1900.  Where can you get a steamed clam in Dallas?

Guest
Guest

Kergo, get over it, already. You're not in Boston anymore. Although, I wish you were. Permanently!

Andrew Gunter
Andrew Gunter

This person is obviously @peanutfreemom on twitter.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Aw Shucks.....other than that, I dunno; and forget about fired clams, I make my own. 

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

And I wish you and Jon Daniel would get married, and move to Cali-he he. 

Guest
Guest

Mary? Mary who?

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