If you lived in the Rhinebeck/Red Hook area in the ‘80s you may fondly remember a friendly black-caped superhero delivering delicious New York-style pizza with a smile, napkins and plates – not to mention the fact of the day. Captain Pizza’s lair was Fairground Pizza which was located across from the Dutchess Fairgrounds.
Well, never fear good citizen pizza-lovers, Captain Pizza is back. You can find him in the original lair, which has actually been a pizza parlor for over 30 years. While he doesn’t offer delivery yet, he has all the original recipes his brother Bob used when he owned the restaurant and you can still get the fact of the day along with your lunch or dinner.
Captain Pizza is actually Lee Engasser (Shhh, keep his identity a secret). A jack-of-all-trades, he was working as an auto mechanic when his brother bought Fairgrounds Pizza in the early ‘80s. He started delivering pizza, a service that wasn’t offered in the Rhinebeck area at the time, and decided to add a little fun into the mix by donning a cape. With a little bit of humor and a hot pizza in tow, Lee made a lasting impression that has actually followed him around across the country.
After his Brother sold the business, Lee let his love of travel take over. He crossed North America many times by motorcycle. He attempted to sail around the world with his father after traveling the east coast for two years, and hitting big storms in the Bermuda Triangle, they decided that that was enough fun, in the big ocean. He has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. Having been the only pizza shop to deliver to Bard College, at that time, many students brought their stories of the caped pizza delivery guy, Captain Pizza, back with them and spread the word. From Juneau, Alaska to the John Muir Trail in California, Lee found he had many fans that recognized the name of Captain Pizza.
So after a 20 year hiatus managing businesses and making pizza for other restaurants, Lee decided it was time to resurrect his old personae. With help from his wife Ann Marie (Mrs. Captain?), who he met on the Appalachian Trail in 1995, and Ann Marie’s mom who is sewing a new cape, Lee bought the pizza parlor and started the business with the name of, you guessed it, Captain Pizza.
"We’re looking to re-grow our fans and build a new and improved restaurant," said Ann Marie. Captain Pizza has been revamped with a new, classier look with further renovations to come. "The whole place has been cleaned and repainted and we’ve added some touches to make the place feel like home with plants and artwork," said Ann Marie. Captain Pizza is currently showcasing local artist, Lynne De Guise.
They offer a full menu of pizza, calzone, stromboli, soup, salad and appetizers, hot and cold subs, and hot dishes. You can also order fresh baked cookies, fresh to order cannolis and zeppolis. Come in to enjoy a delicious meal or call ahead for take out. His prices include tax for fast convient service.
"You can almost say I’ve come full circle," said Lee. "I basically started my working career in the pizza business and found that it’s something I really like to do."
Making customers happy with classic New York-style pizza has already won some rave reviews in the few weeks Captain Pizza has been open.
"One customer compared our pizza to what their grandmother used to make. And to me, that’s the highest compliment you can get," said Ann Marie.