Gino Bellesi and Manuel Molina have a lot in common as well as their joint ownership of Rocky’s Pizza, a reading establishment that celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year.
Both men are together, love to cook, and are ambitious entrepreneurs. They embrace hard work and don’t mind the long hours associated with the hospitality industry. Both moved from another country dreaming of starting and running a successful business in the United States.
“When you have a dream, you should follow it,” Molina said while taking a break from preparing fried chicken, a customer favorite at Rocky’s, located on the corner of North Fifth Street and Spring Street in Reading.
Bellesi’s move to Pennsylvania began as a three-week vacation in 1999. He was 14 years old and was coming to visit his older sister who was living in Reading.
“I came here on vacation and never came back,” he said.
After working various jobs in different restaurants for 11 years, Billeci opened Gino’s Café in Shillington in 2010.
“I was only 25 and I wasn’t sure if I would succeed when I bought it, but I worked hard and the café was doing well,” he said. “After that I was able to buy some other places.”
Billeci also owns Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Berne and recently purchased Shillington Laundromat, located next to Gino’s Café on Broad Street. He renamed it the Shillington Family Laundromat and plans to replace the hardware and make other improvements.
In addition, he owns several apartment buildings and other previously owned or jointly owned businesses, including Mike and Gino’s on the Avenue in Cumru Township.
“There are a lot of dreams you can do here,” Pelesi said. “I go to Italy to visit my family when I can, but this is my home.”
Molina moved to the United States from Mexico in 1992 and found work in area restaurants. He also drove a delivery truck for the Conchohocken bakery.
“I wanted to work hard and save as much as possible so that I could open my own business,” Molina said.
While Molina was delivering bread and bread rolls to Gino’s Café, he and Billeci struck up a friendship. Knowing that Molina was looking for an opportunity, Billeci suggested partnering with Rocky when it became available for sale three years ago. Molina was quick to agree.
“I always thought I’d do something on my own, but I met Gino, and we got along like brothers,” Molina said. “We bought this restaurant and it was very good.”
Partners are open to another opportunity if one presents oneself.
“We are open to trying something else as long as it makes business sense and is something we want to do,” Billeci said.
Currently, Molina operates Rocky’s, which in addition to fried chicken offers pizza, Italian meals, sandwiches, salads, wings, some Spanish-style food, delivery, and catering.
Billeci tends to Blue Marsh, the café, and his other projects. Molina’s wife and daughter are involved in Rocky’s day-to-day operations, and Bellesi’s fiancée, Alicia Sobotka, helps run the laundry, often with her 15-month-old daughter, Bellesi and Francesca.
“Francesca really loves to eat chicken fingers and pasta with sauce,” Pelici said proudly, his face lighting up. “I’m going to start selling my sauce in a jar with it on the label and call it Daddy’s Sauce.”
Daddy’s Sauce may be Billeci’s latest idea, but it’s a pretty good bet that it won’t be the last project he and Molina pursue.
“If there are opportunities, we will definitely look into them,” Pelesi said.