The goal: Fill pizza void in Fields Corner

Cousins Brian Chavez and Hilson Guerrero outside the newly opened Antonio’s Pizzeria in Fields Corner. Charlie Dorf photoCousins Brian Chavez and Hilson Guerrero outside the newly opened Antonio’s Pizzeria in Fields Corner. Charlie Dorf photo
A day after graduating from UMass Boston with a degree in economics in May 2014, Brian Chavez noticed the “For Rent” sign in the window of Hi-Fi Pizza at 1508 Dorchester Ave. The popular pizza and sub joint – a staple in Fields Corner since 1964 – closed permanently last spring after state revenue officials had shuttered and seized it for the second and final time because the former operator had not paid taxes owed by the business.

A little over a year later, on June 29 of this year, the 26-year-old Chavez and his father Hannibal, owner of Hannibal Auto Repair, opened Antonio’s Pizzeria on the old Hi-Fi site.

“When I was a kid and I used to help out or clean up on the weekends with my father at the garage, he would always get pizza,” said Chavez. “So I think my first slice of pizza was from Hi-Fi Pizza.”

The new restaurant is named for Brian’s deceased uncle. “My father’s brother Antonio died in the early ‘90s and I grew up seeing photo albums of him. I wanted to do something for my uncle and his memory, so I said, ‘Let’s go with Antonio’s.’ ”

After the Chavezes leased the space, the process of turning it into an operational business proved to be quite the challenge. “It’s a great location, but when we first saw the condition of the place, it was a dump, so It was kind of intimidating,” said Brian. “But we saw the potential if it was established right and run right, clean and professional.”

The Chavez team spent months bringing the restaurant up to code, running through a punch-list of fixes from replacing out-dated wiring to installing new plumbing. “When we thought we would clear one hurdle and go on to the next step, there was another hurdle,” said Brian. He believes that Antonio’s will fill a void left in the neighborhood when Hi-Fi closed its doors.

“All of the pizza around here is Greek, pan-style pizza,” explains Brian. “Hi-Fi was the only place in the immediate radius that served Italian, thin-crust, hand-tossed pizza. That’s why a lot of people appreciated their food. So I saw that the demand was there for that type of product.”

Hilson Guerrero, the main pizza chef and Brian’s cousin who previously worked at Same Old Place in Jamaica Plain, has merged his personal recipe with that of former Hi Fi employees. “We meshed them together in a hybrid, and the reviews have been good,” Brian said.

The large suggestion box featured prominently next to the register suggests that customer feedback is a cornerstone of Brian Chavez’s vision for the future of Antonio’s, “We are very receptive to feedback here. We know we aren’t going to be perfect from the first day. That’s how as a business and a person that you grow, by recognizing what you do well, but also what you can work on,” he said. “Everyone who comes through that door, I appreciate hearing from them what we do well, but I especially appreciate hearing how we can become better.”

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