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Aurelio’s sidebar: All in the family

‘I’ve been doing this all my life. I was somewhere in this building doing something since I was 13,” said Joe Aurelio, who is now CEO of the Aurelio chain. “My dad [Joseph Jr.] died in 2001, and I’ve been running the company since then.”

Joe Aurelio calibrates “The Monster,” a sausage portioning machine
invented by his father. The Monster holds 50 pounds of fresh Italian
sausage, which is forced out of the machine in the form of
50 sausage balls that land on each Aurelio’s pizza before baking.
(Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)

Aurelio’s description of his hands-on pizza-making education seems similar to that of an apprentice in a 5-star restaurant, right down to the set workflow, the exacting standards for creating a pizza, dedication to fresh ingredients, and the immaculate state of the kitchen, even during the busiest times.

Aurelio said that he and his three sisters, Sue, Amy, and Lori all have been involved in the restaurant in one capacity or another, but he recalls that he started by “… cleaning and busing tables. Then I moved into the kitchen and started grinding the cheese. There were steps of how you went through [the learning process.] After grinding the cheese, you got to put the sauce and sausage on the dough. After that you’d do the spinning [of the dough] and then you would move over on the other side of the kitchen for cooking and tagging the pizza. Finally, if you were really good, they made you a pizza maker.”

Aurelio’s menu has undergone some changes over the years with additions like chicken sandwiches and taco pizza, but not many, Aurelio said.

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Aurelio’s has its own sausage-making
facility where 15,000 pounds of sausage
is ground, seasoned, and packaged
three days a week according to the
family’s Calabrian recipe. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)

“I have one of the original menus and it’s changed maybe 20% since we started. We can’t be everything to everybody, so we’re micro-focusing on what we do best. We have thin crust. We have a thick crust. We have stuffed pizza, and we also have the Calabrese, which is a calzone from Calabria. That makes four styles of pizza.”

When asked why his pizza is such an iconic product, Aurelio cites two innovations in pizza-making that his dad helped invent to perfect his pies. One is “The Monster,” a machine that holds 50 pounds of fresh sausage and extrudes 50 perfectly portioned sausage balls on each pie before baking. The other is a stainless steel rack that is put under each pizza when it comes out of the oven. The rack raises each pie a quarter of an inch off the pan to allow air to circulate under the crust, which keeps it crisp.

“My dad was a pioneer in the business,” Aurelio said. “It’s just something that came from my family and little by little we put it all together.”

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