Chaminade alum gains TikTok fame with Gino’s Pizzeria

Chaminade alum gains TikTok fame with Gino’s Pizzeria
Jack Murphy and Pete "Tiny" Polumbo at Gino's Pizzeria. (Courtesy of Jack Murphy)

Imagine pizzas hurtling toward your face, having gravy poured in your hair and a co-worker threatening you with a broken wooden pizza peel. While this might not sound like your average job at a pizzeria, it is what 18-year-old Jack Murphy experienced during his first job at Gino’s Pizzeria in Williston.

No, Murphy is not a victim of workplace harassment. Rather, Murphy is one of the brains behind the pizzeria’s TikTok account, @ginospizzawp1979, which has amassed nearly 170,000 followers and more than 3 million likes with comedic skit videos.

“Gino’s has always been my favorite pizzeria,” says Murphy, a Chaminade High School alumnus and lifelong Williston Park resident. “So as soon as I got working papers, the first thing I did was go into Gino’s and be like can I get a job here?”

Murphy started working at Gino’s Pizzeria in August 2019. He answered phones, delivered pies and folded pizza boxes behind the counter.

Murphy’s co-worker, 38-year-old Pete “Tiny” Polumbo, is a frequent character in their TikTok videos. “We’d been talking about [making TikTok videos] for a while before we started,” says Polumbo. “And then one day, we were making boxes, and he said, yo, we can make this a competition.”

Their first TikTok videos showed different employees trying to fold three pizza boxes as quickly as possible (with the winner coming in at 23 seconds).

Murphy says he asked Frank Speciale, the owner of Gino’s Pizzeria, if it was OK to make a TikTok account for the restaurant. “He was like, yeah, sure, but I don’t want anything to do with it,” says Murphy.

Speciale opened Gino’s Pizzeria in 1979, and what started as a small local pizza parlor has grown to include a dining room and a banquet room over the years.

While Murphy says their first few videos only received around 200 views each, it didn’t take too long for their content to start gaining traction.

“We got one video with, like, 10,000 [views], which we thought was unstoppable,” says Murphy. Next thing he knew, a video on the account reached 1 million views and another video reached 3 million views.

Some video ideas were inspired by trends on TikTok, like a game called the Tortilla Slap Challenge. TikTok creators participated in this newfound “try not to laugh” challenge with their friends, filling their mouths with a drink of water and slapping one another across the face with a dry tortilla in an effort to make their opponent laugh and spit out the water. Since pizzerias lack spare tortillas, they used the next best thing: pizza.

Murphy says the employees at Gino’s would have “brainstorming sessions” to pitch new video ideas for their TikTok account.

Their most successful videos are skits in which Tiny deals with irritating “customers,” usually played by Murphy. Murphy says they would come up with the characters by asking themselves, “What would be like the worst customer possible?”

Murphy, acting as the customer, asks for frozen pizza from the grocery store to be heated up in the oven, pays with crumpled up and ripped dollar bills, skips out without paying, steals condiments and attempts to order pizza with pineapple on top. In return, Tiny tosses pizzas across the restaurant at Murphy and shatters wooden pizza peels.

“I’ve had to go through some bad things,” says Murphy with a laugh. “One time I had to like lay on the floor because they [pretended to] hit me with a peel, and they put a tablecloth over me, and a lady actually came into the store because she thought I was like actually dead.”

Although Polumbo says business at the restaurant hasn’t really been impacted by their TikTok success, Polumbo and Murphy have noticed the changes in their personal lives.

“I’ve gotten chased down in Uncle Giuseppe’s supermarket by my house,” says Polumbo. “A girl with her father [were] walking around the store, following me, looking at me crooked, and finally they had the courage to say, ‘Oh, hey, are you the guy from the pizza place?’”

Polumbo says he doesn’t foresee the TikTok videos ending anytime soon.

And as for Murphy, he might even make a career out of it. Murphy is a freshman at Bentley University, where he hopes to cinch some marketing internships and is currently a content creator for the school. He creates Instagram and TikTok posts for the university’s accounts, just like he did for Gino’s. The only difference, of course, is the lack of pizzas being thrown at his head.

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