An innovative Arverne pizza maker is the winner of this year's "StartUP! Business Plan Contest" put on by the Queens Economic Development Corporation. NY1's Leisha Majtan gives us a taste of those winning pizza pies.
This isn't your average pizzeria, in fact, it isn’t one at al.
It's Nicole Russell's kitchen.
She runs her business -- "Last Dragon Pizza" – inside her Arverne home.
"I wasn't really thinking about selling it, I was just doing it for fun," said Nicole Russell, the founder of “Last Dragon Pizza.”
The "underground" pizza shop all started about 5 years ago.
That’s when Hurricane Sandy significantly damaged her Beach 64th Street home.
On top of that, her sister was diagnosed with cancer.
Russell turned to cooking for comfort.
"It was a distraction from the pain that I was experiencing over the last couple of years, that just seemed like one thing after the other. So making pizza was just like joy," added Russell.
She made a few pies for construction workers in the neighborhood, and the rest is history.
"Basically I offered them pizza just to be kind and they were like, 'listen, this pizza is really good, we'll buy this!' And I was like 'really?'" said Russell.
Through word of mouth and social media, Russell's business took off.
She's a one-woman show and from scratch, cranks out 20 to 40 pizzas a day for customers across the borough.
Not only does she offer traditional pies but also special recipes like jerk chicken and Asian BBQ.
"Because I love pizza, I know what someone who also loves pizza wants!" said Russell.
Russell says she's ready to take her business to the next level.
She recently won a $10,000 grant from the Queens Economic Development Corporation.
She plans to use that money to start getting her pizzas in grocery stores across the country.
"It would be a dream come true just for everyone, anywhere, in any state to be able to grab a piece of Last Dragon Pizza and just feel all the love and everything that I put into it," exclaimed Russell.
But for now, she’s keeping it in the kitchen -- representing the Rockaways, proving that hard work and talent doesn’t go unnoticed.
Russell will be selling her pies on the weekends along the beach boardwalk in Edgemere starting in July.
For more information about Last Dragon Pizza, go to www.lastdragonpizza.com.