Success Stories

Rock River Pizza

When Randy Trella first introduced Watertown, WI, to the authentic “North Jersey” style Italian food of his childhood, he could not afford to compete on price vs. the chains. Instead, he focused on creating a tightly defined, flavor driven menu and creatively presenting those offerings in ways which elevated guest expectations for a remarkable meal.

To set the stage for his highly flavor focused approach to pizza and pasta, Randy chose a historic building in downtown Watertown with a high tin ceiling and warm hardwood floors. He then added a touch of urban sophistication with teardrop pendant lamps and a gas fired artisan pizza oven.

It may seem like an exceptionally simple tactic. But to keep Randy’s unique flavor focus from getting lost on his guests, he purposely limited his menu to twelve exceptional offerings.

To further reinforce the restaurant’s dedication to enjoying extraordinary flavor, Randy specifically chose to offer a small variety of craft beers for their distinctive flavors and enticingly describe them (alongside domestic lagers like Budweiser) in a single page “Beer Tasting Guide” format.

So rather than just considering price, guests are tempted to sample and compare various lagers and ales, based on intriguing summaries of each brew’s style, flavor notes, character, finish, alcohol content, and even geographic origin.

For additional local interest, Randy’s list includes “Spotted Cow Ale,” a regional favorite from New Glarus, WI.

Similarly, Randy kept his wine list short and sweet, offering fewer, but widely popular flavor profiles capable of pleasing enthusiasts of varying sophistication.

To make wine appreciation even more approachable for novices, Randy offers nearly half of his vintages by the glass and trained his staff to tempt guests to try different wines as they are seated. His approach to merchandising wine in this beer dominated German farm town has been so successful that other area restaurants have begun similar efforts.

While most of his wines are modestly priced at $18 to $30 a bottle, Randy used a simple merchandising technique to elevate the perceived quality of his entire cellar. That is, he anchored two reasonably priced sparkling wines with a third much pricier version ($100 per bottle) “for very special occasions.”

And, again to boost local interest, Randy chose to include “Prairie Fumé,” an artisanal wine from Wisconsin.

Outside of the restaurant itself, Randy also spends time embracing opportunities to take his quality message into the community. For example, Randy happily conducts free pizza demonstrations for various groups, including the local assisted living center, telling them, “if you want to hear about us, we are happy to share.”

In a tightknit farm community like Watertown, forging these local bonds goes a long way to gaining popular acceptance. So while 25 to 30 retirees may not be big pizza eaters themselves, the fact that Randy always treats them with dignity and makes sure that they enjoy his demonstration has made him (and Rock River Pizza) popular with the families and caregivers in the community who love them!