Benny Fierro's

There are two ways to determine just how large a slice of pizza is from new South Side pizza joint, Benny Fierro’s.

One involves a bit of basic geometry. Benny’s sells 28-inch pizzas. As you assuredly remember from high school, the area of a circle is equal to Pi times the radius squared, or A = πr2. Divide that sucker by eight, the number of slices in a Benny pie, and there’s your answer: a slice is about 77 square inches. Sounds pretty big, right?

The other way is to just look at it, cradle it in your arms, hold it aloft like a big cheesy kite and say damn, now that’s a slice!

The original Benny’s opened in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2011, the brainchild of two friends, Chris Brown and Zach Toth, who found Virginia Tech’s late-night dining scene in need of an upgrade. The Benny’s brand has since expanded to 10 other locations in Virginia, mostly college towns, each with a unique “last name.”

Benny Fierro’s (coming from “ferro,” Italian for “iron”) is owned by Ryan Smith, a one-time Pitt student and New Jersey native, cousin to co-owner Brown. After graduating from Rutgers and taking (and leaving) a job in corporate HR, Smith worked for a while at the flagship store in Blacksburg before managing a new location, Benny Nicola’s, in Radford, Virginia.

When it came time to decide between grad school and opening his own Benny’s location, Smith says the choice was easy. And so was the decision to put his location on East Carson Street.

James Donnelly, of Benny Fierro's, with a 28" pie.
James Donnelly, of Benny Fierro’s, with a 28″ pie.
James Donnelly, of Benny Fierro’s, with a 28″ pie.

“We like places with a lot of foot traffic, especially late at night.”

Slices run $4 for cheese, $5 with toppings. There is pepperoni, sausage and two rotating monthly specials. That’s it. When it gets late, around last call, they slim the menu down to just plain and pepperoni.

“We intentionally do one thing and we do it well,” says Smith. “We’re never going to have sandwiches, we’re never going to have anything else. It makes it simple, it makes it fast, and we know everything we’re putting out is good.”

While the oversized “Virginia Slice” at Benny’s calls to mind DC-style jumbo slice pizza, Smith says the inspiration is actually pizza from Hoboken, New Jersey, where his cousin (and Benny’s co-founder) lived after college. Essentially, it’s New York-style pizza, done colossal.

The interior is done in industrial chic, with exposed brick walls and weathered hardwood. There is plenty of space for the late-night crowd, including oversized booths, tables and a bar with little outlets underneath to charge your cell phone. Indie rock acts like Mac Demarco and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs provide the soundtrack.

“There are places to get food [in South Side] late,” says Smith, “but there’s no staple late-night hangout spot. And that’s what we’re really tying to be.”

“You get out of the bars on East Carson Street and where do you go? You go to Benny’s.”

Benny Fierro’s is located at 1906 E. Carson Street. Sun. — Wed., 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Thurs. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 3 a.m.

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.