“We made it safe and comfy, and a lot of people said it was the only place they felt safe to eat out.”
–Sophie Peltzer-Rollo, co-owner
Through the long summer months of 2020, High Falls residents and visitors had a precious oasis: fresh, delicious pizza, baked goods, and coffee right in the center of town, with a generous and lovely outdoor dining area.
“We made it safe and comfy, and a lot of people said it was the only place they felt safe to eat out,” says Sophie Peltzer-Rollo, one of the team of three that created Ollie’s Pizza. “It felt really great and fulfilling to be providing that at a time when it was so needed.” Mid-pandemic was an interesting time to be opening a restaurant, to say the least. The owners took over the former Black Barn on Bruceville Road in December of 2019 and began renovating in January of 2020, and were soon faced with a construction ban. “Luckily, Innis and Ilan knew how to do some things, and it was our building, so we weren’t completely stalled,” says Sophie. “Getting started when we did was either the best or worst luck ever, and we’re still figuring out which. We’d planned to open in spring and opened in summer, so we stayed pretty much on track.”
There are gluten-free and vegan options, and toppings like shallots and Calabrian chilis that can’t be found everywhere else.
Innis Lawrence and Ilan Bachrach met at Adventure Games, a Live Action Role Playing summer camp for kids located in New Paltz. “It was sorta the outdoor camp for the indoor kids,” says Ilan. “We did a lot of magical mystical role play.”
That was 25 years ago, and the friendship only deepened over the years as Ilan and Innis both moved to the city, Ilan pursuing avant garde theatre and Innis, jewelry-making and photography. Innis was managing the bar at DuMont Burger in Brooklyn and Ilan was answering the order line when Innis met Sophie, who hailed from North Jersey and Queens, and eventually all three began spending time upstate. The move became permanent when Innis and Sophie’s daughter Ollie was born in 2016.
Innis, a High Fallonian by birth, shared with his baker father a passion for pizza. The two were always striving for the perfect outdoor oven, the ideal dough. There was talk of a pop-up pizza place, but when the Black Barn property became available, it was time to take it all the way.
Innis is the chef, Sophie manages the front of the house and bever age program, and Ilan is a business and finance whiz. “He still performs,” says Sophie. “He was supposed to be in Germany doing opera this year, but it was cancelled, so he’s been here helping out.”
The trio take pride in creating the best possible food. “Without that, we’re nowhere, so we strive to get the absolute finest—we make fresh mozzarella daily,” says Sophie. “We contract with Back Home Farm in High Falls; this year we sat down with him and a seed catalogue to get exactly what we want and preorder. I think that’s a model whose time has come around here; it’s a win/win for the chef and the farmer both.”
A community favorite is Ollie’s Roman-style pie: a large rectangle baked in an electric oven with twice-fermented dough that’s light as air. “That’s our family size; our wood-fired pies are 14 inches, so they’re good for two—or one very hungry person,” says Sophie. There are gluten-free and vegan options, and toppings like shallots and Calabrian chilis that can’t be found everywhere else. Sophie’s beverage program includes local beer, natural wines and ever-changing cocktails, along with non-alcoholic choices like Mexican Coke, spiced warm cider, and kombucha.
This season, Sophie looks forward to refining the outdoor service a bit. “Last year, with the whole world in disarray and us just starting, it was a bit like ‘grab your food and find a place to sit,’ and I want to make it flow just a bit more like a dine-in experience, while keeping the focus on outdoor and takeout to protect everybody,” says Sophie. “Then hopefully by next winter, we’ll be able to really dine indoors.”
“We strive to get the absolute finest —we make our fresh mozzarella daily.”
– Sophie Peltzer-Rollo, co-owner
Little Ollie, now three-and-a-half, celebrated her third birthday with Ollie’s entire yard full of pizza lovers singing Happy Birthday. “She loves her ‘flat’ plain cheese pizza; she can eat five slices of wood-fired by herself,” says Sophie. “She likes to go behind the bar and get herself a lemonade. She’ll run around the yard helping me bus tables, so I’ve taught her to ask, ‘How is everything?’ She thrives on it, and we have a lot of extended family around—it’s a real family affair. This is Innis’ town, but Ilan and I have come to love it with our whole hearts, and we just want to serve the community the best we can. We’ve got a good thing going.”
4 Bruceville Road, High Falls