Pair Of Former Knicks Stars Set To Debut Harlem Pizzeria

Former New York Knicks John Starks and Anthony Mason have decided to team up again and they're opening up a pizza restaurant. They are set to combine forces with a former Tavern on the Green executive on the project.

Starks and Mason will bring the Custom Fuel Pizza franchise to uptown Manhattan early next year. The restaurant will be located on Frederick Douglas Boulevard and West 123rd Street. CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim are also investors in the eatery.

The first of the chain of restaurants was started in Washington, D.C. But make no mistake there's a New York restaurateur behind the concept. Custom Fuels' President Jeremy Wladis knows great food. His tongue for great taste started when he was a young boy, working in his father's grocery store in upstate New York. His taste buds, have “budded” a bit since then. But, once he got a gulp of the restaurant industry – he got thirsty for the thrill, the flavors and the feeling. 

Wladis pizza concept is one of several eateries that he owns and operates under the The Restaurant Group banner. “Our goal is to create a fusion of flavors that make a great recipe,” Wladis noted. The great recipe is what results when these “flavors” come together into a concept.
His first pizza concept, Fuel Pizza – is a nostalgic, gas station themed pizzeria that started in Charlotte, North Carolina as a way to bring New York pizza, to the Southerners. Custom Fuel Pizza – a modern twist, and evolved version- of TRG's original Fuel Pizza. Quality, real ingredients on a pizza – fast fired in just minutes.

The firm also operates Brad's Brew – a psychadelic coffee and sandwich shop where college students frequent to eat and hang out. Firehouse Tavern – the familiar neighborhood tavern where families, sports and great food come together. Its Amigos – Mexican fare, done with untraditional and tasty flare! Tacos and happy hour collide daily. Good Enough to Eat, capturing the resurgence of New York's Upper West side – a trendy spot that boasts home cooked food, with a farm feel. Fresh biscuits and the ever-popular pumpkin pancakes made fresh every day. And A.G. Kitchen is a place where burgers and Brazilian style chicken, get a creative spin on a plate, alongside Latino classics.

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Custom Fuel Pizza is known for allowing customers to “design” their own pies by picking the crust and sauce as well as any toppings. The Big Apple location is scheduled to open in late January.

Waldis marketing strategy also includes a community-based agenda. The eatery also offers a Field to Fuel School Garden Program, which has gained national attention. The program is an effort to interest children in nutrition while also teaching them to cook. The Fuel Pizza Field to Fork Program will give students an education in cooking and nutrition as well as gardening. Several schools in Charlotte, North Carolina are now a part of the Field to Fork Pizza Garden Program, which teaches children healthy habits.

Starks and Mason aren't the only ex-Knicks players who have opened businesses in New York City. Walt “Clyde” Frazier owns a sports bar on the far west side of midtown Manhattan. Frazier was the point guard of the 1973 championship team. The bar, which opened in March of 2012, is called Clyde Frazier's Wine and Dine. 

Custom Fuel's menu offers custom, personal-sized (13-by-6 inch) pizzas that are baked in a conveyor belt oven within two minutes rather than whole pies and slices. 

The menu incorporates organic seasonal local produce. Diners choose a crust (traditional, whole wheat, or gluten-free), sauce (tomato, pesto, barbecue, spicy marinara, etc.), cheese (including dairy free and fat free), and other meat and vegetable toppings including pork belly, shrimp, crab, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes.

The restaurant also offers a dozen signature “vintage” pizzas like gorgonzola, pear, prosciutto; Old Bay shrimp; Hawaiian; and Veggie Delight. There's even a dessert pie with Nutella and seasonal fruit. Customizable pizzas with two toppings and the signature pizzas are $7.97. Classic pizzas like pepperoni or just cheese are $6.97. Salads, which are also customizable, range from $6.97 to $7.97.