This Ridgefield restaurant started selling frozen pizzas during COVID. Now, it’s expanding

Larry Debany, owner of 850 Degrees wood-fired pizza restaurant in Ridgefield, turned to making and selling frozen pizzas during COVID-19. Now selling in eight grocery stores and growing, Debany has purchased a location to expand.

Larry Debany, owner of 850 Degrees wood-fired pizza restaurant in Ridgefield, turned to making and selling frozen pizzas during COVID-19. Now selling in eight grocery stores and growing, Debany has purchased a location to expand.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

RIDGEFIELD — Pizza now freezes at 850 Degrees.

Larry Debany, creator and co-owner of the popular 850 Degrees Restaurant — along with his brother and silent partner Tim Debany — both of Ridgefield, are seeing their new frozen pizza business start to heat up.

“I've been working on it for years and years, but we never really had time to get it going until the pandemic,” said Larry Debany, who forged the recipe and related process for what they believe is the best frozen pizza available.

“It's as close to a real pie as it can be,” said Tim Debany, who co-owns 850 Degrees.

It was more than 30 years ago when the brothers, who grew up in Bedford, N.Y., first started talking about bringing New York-style pies to Ridgefield.

"I moved to town in 1992,” said Tim Debany. One day when his brother was visiting, they brought home a local pie.

“The pizza's just terrible,” Larry Debany. “It's just not New York pizza.”

The episode prompted Larry Debany, who had a business of mobile coffee trucks in Yonkers, N.Y., to take a stab at offering locals a better kind of thin-crust pie with the opening of the Village Pizza & Pasta on Danbury Road.

“He did that for a bunch of years,” Tim Debany noted, with the object being to have a better sauce on a thin-crust pie with the highest quality of cheese, which he said makes the biggest difference.

After selling Village Pizza, Larry Debany followed that with Fifty Coins Restaurant on Main Street in 2006, which he sold in 2016 after having opened 850 Degrees nearby with his brother as a silent partner.

That's where the 850 Degrees frozen pizza brand was first sold a couple of years ago during COVID-19.

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Since then, the frozen pies have taken off, with cheese, Margherita, and a s'more dessert pie available for purchase.

This year, the business expanded sales at eight local stores, including Caraluzzi's Market in Ridgefield, Pound Ridge Market, Wilton Village Market, and Stewart's Market in New Canaan.

“So far the reception has been great, been getting busier and busier with the stores and customers,” said Pat Sexton, manager of 850 Degrees.

“We are fortunate to have a great group of customers who have tried the produce and told others to as well,” he said, noting the pandemic inspired restaurants to get creative in their offerings. “We look forward to trying more toppings and different pizzas.”

At this time, the company is waiting for state and federal license permits to include meats in their frozen offerings. Meanwhile, they are making arrangements to open a large production kitchen in Brookfield, which will enable the building to expand.

“It's gotten busy enough that we really can't do any more at the restaurant,” Larry Debany said.

Tim Debany detailed how they went through the process of getting the pizzas perfect for this kind of sale.

“You have to make the pie, and then you have to decide how long you're going to precook it," he said, noting that along with the ingredients themselves, there is a sweet spot in terms of precooking that keeps the pizza perfect when it's taken home and heated.

“We think we've got it really perfected now,” he said.

Thus, the brothers and their team at 850 Degrees are embarking on what they hope is a significant expansion in their market, with several large grocery stores and even a professional sports team talking to them about partnering with their product.

“We're just in the infancy stage of getting this all together,” Tim said. “I think it's gonna explode.”