Totally tubular! Amicci's becoming Underdog Pizza in '80s-era rebrand

·3 min read

Aug. 6—Nostalgia for the 1980s remains strong, and a pizzeria in downtown Keene is rebranding because it wants a slice of that pie.

Amicci's Pizza on Main Street will soon be known as Underdog Pizza, and its owners plan to give it a radical facelift inside to evoke memories of '80s pop culture like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters.

"Literally, we're the smallest pizza restaurant, and we have a lot of foot traffic," said owner Jamie Allen, describing how the name "underdog" came about. "We were making jokes about how it's not about the size of your pizza, it's about the bite because we're the smallest."

Allen, herself a child of the 1980s, said she wants to line the walls of the restaurant with shelves to display merchandise, toys and video games characteristic of the decade she grew up in.

She's already placed action figures of the four turtles — Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael — on some spaces of the interior ahead of the business' full redesign.

"Eventually, I'm hoping everything you see on the wall is buyable," Allen, of Keene, said. "I want to start making lamps of old broken Nintendo controllers so people can say, 'I really like that,' and I can say, 'Make me an offer.' I've had people offer me money for the Ninja Turtles pizza cutter we have."

In that way, she hopes the look of Underdog Pizza will regularly change as customers get a side of pop culture with their pizza or sub sandwich. She also hopes to make the business feel more family-friendly by bringing in old arcade game tables where customers can sit.

That could also mean the restaurant hosting scheduled video game contests and tournaments with game consoles for kids to go head-to-head against one another, Allen said.

Allen had worked at Amicci's for four years before she and a business partner purchased the pizzeria from Alexandria and Craig Faulkner on June 1.

"This place became ... like home," Allen said. "So when the opportunity came up to buy, we just did it."

She said the space was once home to Mister Pizza before Ken and Paula Jessup opened the current restaurant there in 2001 under the name Prosciutto's, which later became Amicci's Pizza.

The Sentinel reported in 2018 that the Faulkners purchased the restaurant from the Jessups in September of that year.

Allen holds something of a nostalgic feeling for the design of the property when it was Mister Pizza based on pictures she's seen, so she said she wants to pay tribute to it inside Underdog Pizza.

"The front of [Mister Pizza] is probably the coolest thing I've ever seen; it had huge bubble signs and bright lights [and] you couldn't miss it going downtown," she said. "We're going to try to print out photos of the original Mister Pizza restaurant."

At first, Allen said she hadn't planned to rename and rebrand the business after she bought it, but the idea was partially born from a case of mistaken identity. She explained that Google search results had somehow used the restaurant's phone number for other pizzerias of similar names in the U.S. and Canada, leading to people from other states and Canadian provinces to mistakenly call Amicci's Pizza.

"It's very frustrating when people call us and I have to ask [if they're] in the state of New Hampshire," Allen said. "I've been dealing with it for at least my four years here."

Amicci's Pizza is already Underdog Pizza online, with a new website and the restaurant renamed on Google Maps, but Allen said she hopes to have the restaurant's redesign and new signage ready within a month. The pizzeria will keep its existing phone number and menu items.

"We don't want to change so much because the community likes it that way, we're just trying to upgrade the product," Allen said.

Tim Nail can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or tnail@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @timmnail.