It was business as usual for Mickey Chopra on a hot summer day in June when a man walked into his restaurant, Vinnie’s Pizzeria & Ristorante in Boonton, and ordered a plain slice. It wasn’t until Chopra noticed a cameraman waiting outside that he started to ask questions.
“I had no idea who he was,” Chopra said. “He said, ’I’m a blogger.’ He did not tell me his name.”
What Chopra did not realize is that he had Dave Portnoy — the creator and president of multimillion-dollar media empire Barstool Sports — in his store.
Among other projects, Portnoy produces “One Bite Pizza Review” videos for pizzerias around the country. In late June, these reviews brought him to seven different pizzerias and restaurants in Morris County.
Chopra soon learned how big a deal this was.
Once Portnoy left Vinnie’s with his slice, it didn’t take long for dozens of people to crowd around the storefront, showering Portnoy with compliments and eagerly waiting for his rating of the pizza.
That’s when Chopra stepped outside to see what all the commotion was about.
After getting Portnoy’s name from his cameraman, a quick Google search showed Chopra exactly the kind of exposure he was about to get.
“I found out this guy has 2.6 million followers,” Chopra said. “All of a sudden, I see 40, 50 kids show up and I think, ‘Oh, my God, this guy really is something.’”
Once the crowd had quieted and the camera was set up, the video started.
“One bite, you know the rules.”
It’s the signature phrase from Portnoy at the start of every video. He then takes a bite and very quickly gives it a rating from 1-10. The locations he visited in Morris County on that day scored favorably, with an average score of 7.5. (Anything over 7.0 is good.)
Chopra’s pizza didn’t fare quite as well in the review, only getting a 6.8.
Chopra, however, was granted something that few restaurants profiled get the chance at: a rating from Portnoy on a dish that was not pizza.
Vinnie’s advertises itself as the only i2i restaurant in the world — meaning the restaurant combines Italian and Indian cuisine to make entirely new dishes. Chopra, who participated in the video, calls it Italian-Indian fusion.
Portnoy, intrigued by the premise, asked for an order of chicken makhani penne ala vodka, which was quickly brought out to him by Chopra.
“How are you going to go to the first Italian-Indian fusion restaurant of all time and not try the (signature dish),” Portnoy said.
Minutes later — and with a local crowd gathering around — Portnoy got the dish.
After two bites, he gave his score.
“9.3,” Portnoy said. “Never had anything like it … very good.”
In the month since the review on Vinnie’s aired, Chopra said he has seen a huge increase in business, especially people coming in asking for the dish Portnoy chose: Chicken makhani penne ala vodka.
“On Fridays and Saturdays, I used to sell maybe 10-15,” Chopra said. “Now, I’m selling 100.”
Chopra said the impact of the review goes beyond just an increase in profits; it comes with an increase in exposure.
“People are taking selfies with me, making videos with me,” Chopra said. “People are asking ‘Could you say something to my son or my daughter?’”
It’s people from all over the Northeast.
“We have people coming from Albany (New York), Connecticut, Long Island, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh,” Chopra said.
He credits the reach of Barstool Sports.
“David also put the video onto YouTube, on his One Bite app, TikTok, every social media you can think of, he put it out,” Chopra said.
Chopra is hoping his connection to Portnoy and Barstool Sports doesn’t end anytime soon. He said Portnoy has expressed interest in coming back and working with Vinnie’s again.
Chopra said he’s eager to do so after seeing the power of the first review.
“Sometimes these (reviews) can really make you or break you,” he said. “If it’s a bad review, it can really hurt your business, as well.”
That’s not the case here, Chopra said.
“He’s done very positive things for us,” he said. “Over 2 million people have viewed our restaurant because of him.”
Barstool Pizza Review – Vinnie’s Pizzeria (i2i Indian Italian Fusion) Boonton, NJ pic.twitter.com/IRPvyu8rEF
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) June 26, 2020