Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Feb. 7, 2023

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Kiggins Theatre owner buys, renames Vinnie’s Pizza in downtown Vancouver

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Bessolo Pizzeria is at 1000 Main St., across the street from Kiggins Theatre.
Bessolo Pizzeria is at 1000 Main St., across the street from Kiggins Theatre. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Something’s a bit different at a popular downtown Vancouver pizzeria.

Recently, the words on the Vinnie’s Pizza’s sign changed from Vinnie’s to Bessolo Pizzeria. All the other words on the window and everything else inside the pizzeria remain the same.

This slight modification shows that the pizzeria’s new owner, Dan Wyatt, isn’t interested in disrupting a business at 1000 Main St. that has been successful for nearly a decade.

“I didn’t think I’d ever buy a restaurant,” said Wyatt, “but if it wasn’t here and it wasn’t pizza, I wouldn’t.”

Wyatt also owns the Kiggins Theatre across the street at 1011 Main St. He previously served pizza from Vancouver Pizza to his patrons, and when that business closed, his theater was left pizza-less. He also noticed that movie theater patrons often went to Vinnie’s before or after shows at the Kiggins.

Even so, owning the pizza place wasn’t a matter of strategy but the result of a chance encounter.

Wyatt and his family were at Mav’s Taphouse when they ran into the pizzeria’s owner, Vinnie Coco Jr. Coco told Wyatt that he was planning on selling the pizzeria and moving to Italy. Wyatt remembered that his father, Dan Wyatt Sr., always told him to never pass up on an opportunity. That night he considered taking over the pizzeria.

Wyatt met with Coco to determine the financial health of the business. The pandemic was cruel to many local, small businesses, but Vinnie’s Pizza did well as a take out business.

Wyatt already had the theater to run, and he had to manage his other downtown properties. He offered to take the business if he could get Vinnie’s family recipes (including his Nonno’s pizza recipe) and if the current staff could run the place. A deal was struck, and Wyatt became the owner of the business a month after that first chance meeting.

For now, there are a few changes. The restaurant was takeout only until Monday. Pasta isn’t on the menu for now. Both temporary modifications were necessary to help the staff get up to speed running the restaurant. Preparing pasta and pizza without Coco running the kitchen isn’t feasible at this time.

In addition, Wyatt tweaked the menu, giving the specialty pizzas that have always been offered at the pizzeria film-inspired names like the Scorsese, Tarantino, and Fellini Pizzyricon.

He made one addition, The Pizza with No Name (trilogy) a chicken and barbecue sauce pizza topped with smoked gouda cheese named after the poncho-covered, cigar smoking character Clint Eastwood played in the the Man with No Name films.

A special pizza combination arrives in December when Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest offering plays at the Kiggins Theatre. The film’s name, Licorice Pizza, creates a lot of sauce and topping possibilities.

Alcoholic beverages aren’t yet available. As a new business, Bessolo Pizzeria had to apply for a new liquor license. When it’s granted, Wyatt plans on serving local craft beer like the Irish Red made by Trusty Brewing exclusively for the Kiggins Theatre.

The name Bessolo was Wyatt’s mother’s family name. Like many Italian immigrants (including the fictional character Don Corleone in the film “The Godfather”), it was modified by immigration officials when they came to the United States. Beslow was the name erroneously written on their paperwork.

Ultimately, Wyatt seeks to recreate the pizza parlor experience he fondly remembers from his childhood.

Growing up in Vancouver, he visited places like Uncle Milt’s that offered a variety of entertainment including pipe organ music, an arcade and a firepit. He plans on starting modestly with an accordion player.