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Greenfield pizza parlor plans hampered by gas moratorium

  • Abaz Cecunjanin pours a beer at Terrazza at CCG in Greenfield. December 29, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz...



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, January 02, 2018

GREENFIELD — The new year could see the addition of downtown Greenfield’s second brick-oven pizzeria, with an accompanying Main Street banquet space.

Abaz Cecunjanin, who has been operating Terrazza Restaurant at the Country Club of Greenfield since 2013 with his brother, Ermin, as head chef, said his 2-year-old plans for 220 and 222 Main St., however, have been delayed largely because of the Berkshire Gas Co.’s moratorium on service expansion.

Cecunjanin and his wife, Anela, plan to open Bella Familia, a brick-oven pizza restaurant and deli, in the former Country Jeweler storefront at 220 Main St., which has been vacant for two years. Plans call for the storefront, with seating for about 20, to also operate as a “European bakery,” selling cakes from Moldova and Cecunjanin’s native Montenegro, along with Italian pastries.

The adjacent 222 Main St. space, occupied until last April by Greenfield Games, will be connected as a banquet room for private parties of 110 or more. Renters of the space can either bring their own food or have events catered by the adjoining kitchen, which Cecunjanin said will likely be run by his other brother, Erdin, with whom he ran Bella Notte in Bernardston from 2001 through 2013.

Cecunjanin has no plans to apply for a liquor license, he said.

“Greenfield has a lot of pizza, but everybody does it differently,” says Cecunjanin, whose extended family operates 20 to 30 restaurants in Connecticut and eastern New York, many of them serving pizza. “This will be real New York style pizza with thin crust and a grade of flour that nobody uses around here.”

The restaurant will also serve sandwiches, hot Italian dishes and some of the same items on the Terrazza menu, said Cecunjanin, although the plan is for Bella Familia to add that part of the menu gradually according to what customers want.

Hitting an obstacle

Cecunjanin bought the 220-228 Main St. building in August 2016. Yet, for his planned pizza oven, priced at nearly $40,000, he said, his confrontation with Berkshire Gas Co. over its refusal to take on new or expanded gas customers took the initial wind out of his sails. “I have never built my own restaurant from scratch, so for me this is a gigantic experience, and a gigantic headache at the same time.”

His new venture at Main and Chapman was energizing at first, said Cecunjanin, “until I hit that rock with Berkshire Gas.” He says he got “demoralized,” and was busy enough at Terrazza that he didn’t force the issue, which will require that he install two 40-gallon tanks for propane to augment the existing supply of less costly natural gas — although there’s hardly space for two tanks.

“If it gets busy enough, we’d probably have to have propane delivered almost every day,” he said.

On the plus side, he says, food can bake more quickly with propane.

What stung, he said, was that Berkshire Gas allowed a new hookup for a Moe’s Southwest Grill to be built on Route 9 in Hadley after his request was denied.

“How they got it, I don’t know,” he said. “They’re a chain.”

Berkshire Gas has been looking at two solutions for ending its 3½1/2-year-old moratorium on new hookups or expansions in Franklin and Hampshire counties: a large liquefied natural gas storage facility somewhere in the region and expansion of its distribution main between Greenfield and Southwick.

Cecunjanin said he hopes to have his business, which will require a new facade, to open by summer — although he adds, with a laugh, “I said that last year, too.”

He says he’s hopeful, though, and that he believes “there’s a need for a beautiful ballroom that’s more affordable, where people can bring their own food. Or we can rent out everything including the pizza part, for a special event.”

Cecunjanin adds, “I’m very excited. I think Greenfield needs more positive minds, to really develop the town, to bring people to Main Street …. (where) it has not enough foot traffic. We need to change that.”
After 17 years here, longer than he spent living in Montenegro, Cecunjanin said, “I love Greenfield. I’m feeling positive.”

You can reach Richie Davis at

rdavis@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 269