Market Street Pizza overlooks downtown and the Spokane Valley with elaborate, spray-paint-decorated walls covering the back, including the Teenage Mutant Turtles and the beloved cartoon’s trademark food: pizza.
Inside, the bustling dinner rush has staff moving, and children are at their happiest in the arcade to the left. Classic brick walls, pinball machines, string lighting and a Seattle Seahawks neon sign greet customers, with a fortune-telling machine facing the pool tables next to the bar.
Patrons are likely to see Aaron Fiorini, one of the restaurant’s owners and self-titled dough slinger, in the kitchen alongside the crew. Fiorini isn’t afraid to run a tight ship, with each worker playing a key role in the finely tuned system.
But Fiorini also is more than willing to have fun, breaking out in song every so often and sharing his excitement in a well-done pizza. The atmosphere is part of the recipe for success, but Market Street Pizza, as one of Spokane’s favorite pizzerias, has much more history and many more influences behind it than a surface-level pizza place.
The restaurant opened Nov. 15, 2019. “Try asking him when his first daughter was born,” Aaron’s other half, Angel Fiorini, chuckled. “Next question,” her husband replied with a smile.
Market Street’s second anniversary is looming, and its backstory is part of the restaurant’s charm. The Fiorinis grew up in Hillyard, the same neighborhood as their restaurant. About 20 years ago when Angel Fiorini was working at David’s Pizza, she delivered Aaron Fiorini a pizza, and they started talking and soon started dating.
Angel Fiorini coincidentally shortly after that started dealing cards in the upstairs section of Market Street Pizza when it was the Riverbend Casino. So, one could credit pizza as the reason their relationship started and then led to Market Street Pizza.
But the very beginning goes back to Aaron Fiorini’s childhood. “When it was pizza night at my house, that also probably meant it was movie night, and we went over to Premier Video and picked up a VHS, maybe even two of them,” he said. “I might even have got a Nintendo, as my mom called it an ‘Intendo,’ game, and man that was a weekend.”
Fiorini also credits his Italian culture. “I’ve always loved to cook, and I’m Italian, so I think pizza runs through my blood – it’s in my veins,” Fiorini said. And perhaps pizza itself was his greatest motivator.
“I just love pizza,” Fiorini said. “Nothing will cure a blue Monday better than a pizza. It’s a cure all for hangovers, it’s a cure all for depression – eat it when you’re happy, eat it when you’re sad, eat it in the summer, eat it in the winter.”
That’s why making the best pizza Fiorini can is a top priority for him and why being different than the average pizzeria is a must. He studied pizza for about two years reading every book, watching every video and listening to every podcast.
He also said he “studied the masters,” noting Domenico “Dom” DeMarco and Mark Iacono. Market Street Pizza went through multiple cheese, peperoni and flour options to find the best quality ingredients instead of “slapping some basic ingredients together.”
Fiorini also noted that Market Street Pizza chose locally milled Shepherd’s Grain flour. “So much testing and so much practice, and by practice, I mean eating pizza,” Fiorini said with a laugh.
While he could go on for hours about the many variables and of course the pizza, in the end, family has always been the backbone of Fiorini’s operation. “I have a family, and family is everything to me,” Fiorini said.
Fiorini, a father of three, wanted a place that he could bring his children, a place that he thought Hillyard didn’t have, taking some inspiration from Five Mile Heights Pizza Parlor that was once a central location for family fun in north Spokane.
“You know, to be able to watch the football game, eat some pizza, kids can go play around, we can drink a beer and just have that blue collar feeling,” Fiorini said about the vision for Market Street Pizza.
Another goal for Market Street Pizza was to be as casual as possible. Instead of needing to get dressed up, sit perfectly still and be quiet, Fiorini leans into the opposite. “Kids are running down the hallway back and forth here. It gets a little wild, but it is truly family-friendly,” Fiorini said. “Fun for everybody from babies to full-grown adult babies.”
It takes a certain kind of person to run a business like this, and that certain kind of person might want to think long and hard about this venture, Fiorini said.
“You have to be absolutely insane, like out of your mind,” Fiorini said. “It’s 24/7 work. Even when you’re not here, you’re still on the phone and working. You have to have some serious gumption, and you have to be completely dedicated.”
Market Street Pizza has had its difficulties. When asked about them, Fiorini answered, “That’s a 10-point question.” Keeping employees, staying consistent and trying to have a certain price on the menu when food prices are “constantly rising” is just the tip of the iceberg, he said, but COVID-19 has undoubtedly been the greatest factor as of late.
Opening only about four months before Washington’s first lockdown, the Fiorinis were thrown into the pandemic’s hardships like so many other restaurant owners. “There’s a lot of things that make it hard, but there’s a lot of things that make it worth it all,” Fiorini said. “And anything truly rewarding is not easy.”
Fiorini said that customers’ experiences are gratifying, noting examples such as “people say this is the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life” or “I’m from the East Coast, and I haven’t had pizza like this since I was young or since I was in New York.”
Also, “looking at the arcade and seeing smiles on kids’ faces, having adults say, ‘Man, this is just like what I remember when I was a kid at pizzerias.” Now, the future looks even brighter for Market Street Pizza.
It has recently added open-mic comedy every Monday night in the upstairs lounge with the help of Mike Thomas, a flashback to a part of the building’s history when it was known as the “Bluz at the Bend.”
Additions are also on the itinerary with a large outdoor patio overlooking the view of Spokane under construction and an outdoor live-music stage in the works. But Fiorini’s most-anticipated project is purchasing and turning a 20-foot shipping container into an outdoor kitchen.
Fiorini’s friend Kyle Ronan was dining at Market Street Pizza while I was interviewing the Fiorinis. “I feel like the world all just needs to come together, we need to quit fighting and arguing so much, why don’t we all just sit down and have a pizza?” Ronan said.
“Life is too short for all the ruckus and shenanigans. Get together with your loved ones and come on down to a pizzeria. Show a little love, you know? Maybe buy a round for the kitchen staff when they get off work,” Ronan said with a chuckle.
“Man, that’s it. He wrapped it up perfectly,” Fiorini chimed in.
Jordan Tolley-Turner is a high school summer intern. He begins his junior year at Shadle Park High School in the fall. He can be reached at (509) 459-5153 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.