Wilkes-Barre’s Frank’s Pizza reopens with new menu as Franco’s Pizzeria

By Gene Axton | For Times Leader
Franco’s sous chef Marc Squicciarini, of Wilkes-Barre, stirs a pot of spaghetti. - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Pat Ward makes a balloon animal for Isabella Noriega, 8, of Plymouth, during Franco’s grand reopening on June 15. - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Franco’s server Brittany Miller, of Wilkes-Barre, brings out an array of desserts during the restaurant’s grand reopening on June 15. - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Franco’s features a line of pizzas and gourmet pizzas made fresh daily. - - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Franco’s owner, Philip Bella, of Kingston, tosses one of his famous pizzas at the 198 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, business. - - Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — What’s in a name? For restaurant owners Rosa and Phillip Bellia, a new name means a fresh start.

On June 15, the Bellia’s 198 S. Main St. eatery, Frank’s Pizza, was rechristened Franco’s Pizzeria. Rosa gave a number of reasons for the name change — it signifies the family’s return to the business after two years spent away, taking care of an aging loved one; it’s reflective of the traditional Italian experience the Bellias are aiming for with the relaunch; and it’s named after their middle child, 19-year-old Frank.

“I was honored because at one point it was named after my grandfather, who’s also Frank, but my nickname was always Franco so it was nice to make this restaurant part of me as well,” Frank said.

The younger Frank spent years helping his parents, “building pizza boxes for a penny.” That restaurant was started in 1975 by Rosa’s parents, Frank and Concetta Genova, and was located in south Wilkes-Barre’s Penn Plaza shopping center. After Frank died in 1986, Rosa assisted her mother with day-to-day operations. When Concetta passed in 1997, Rosa’s husband Phillip stepped in, and the two have carried on the second-generation business since.

In 2012, Frank’s Pizza moved from Penn Plaza to its current location, but in 2015, Rosa had to step away from the business to care for an ailing loved one. She leased the establishment to a chef who instituted a new menu and geared Frank’s to customers looking for a bistro experience. When that venture ended, Rosa and her family returned to the restaurant reinvigorated.

They instilled their focus on family into the establishment by printing candid photographs of themselves and their sons, Franco, Giuseppe, 9, and Vincent, 22, as well as founders Frank and Concetta, to be hung around the restaurant.

They’ve also stripped down the menu to deliver a more authentic Italian experience. Rosa said a few of the dishes come straight from her childhood dinner table, while items like the rigatoni alla vodka are Rosa Bellia specialties.

It has some of the old; it has a lot of the new,” Rosa said. “It’s a more simplified, cleaner menu. We kind of just tried to take it back a little bit, make it more ethnic Italian. It goes back to my roots.”

Rosa also makes the sauce for Franco’s margherita pizza — one of two dishes her husband claims as personal go-to items.

“I like the margherita and bruschetta,” Phillip said. “If you’re in a different kind of mood, you change it up, you know?”

Rosa said their pizza didn’t change much during the Bellia’s hiatus from the restaurant, but customers will notice a shift to pre-2015 tastes and a few new items on the menu, like the bruschetta pizza.

When it comes time for another Bellia to step in and become the third-generation owner, both Phillip and Frank said they aren’t sure what the future holds. Frank is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering, and Phillip is supportive of his son’s decision. That’s OK — for now, Rosa is excited about the restaurant’s present.

“Words cannot begin to describe it, and it’s going to unfold day by day,” Rosa said. “I’m very passionate about what I do. I love what I do; it is my family legacy that I want to uphold and take to the next level.”

Franco’s sous chef Marc Squicciarini, of Wilkes-Barre, stirs a pot of spaghetti.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_Franco-27s-5.jpgFranco’s sous chef Marc Squicciarini, of Wilkes-Barre, stirs a pot of spaghetti. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Pat Ward makes a balloon animal for Isabella Noriega, 8, of Plymouth, during Franco’s grand reopening on June 15.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_Franco-27s-3.jpgPat Ward makes a balloon animal for Isabella Noriega, 8, of Plymouth, during Franco’s grand reopening on June 15. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Franco’s server Brittany Miller, of Wilkes-Barre, brings out an array of desserts during the restaurant’s grand reopening on June 15.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_Franco-27s-4.jpgFranco’s server Brittany Miller, of Wilkes-Barre, brings out an array of desserts during the restaurant’s grand reopening on June 15. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Franco’s features a line of pizzas and gourmet pizzas made fresh daily.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_Franco-27s-2.jpgFranco’s features a line of pizzas and gourmet pizzas made fresh daily. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Franco’s owner, Philip Bella, of Kingston, tosses one of his famous pizzas at the 198 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, business.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_Franco-27s-1.jpgFranco’s owner, Philip Bella, of Kingston, tosses one of his famous pizzas at the 198 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, business. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Franco’s offers new name, simplified menu

By Gene Axton | For Times Leader