Sean Ferraro angles his skiff toward several boats full of people in swimsuits and whips out his megaphone.
“Hey, you guys need any pizza?” he says. “I got cheese and pepperoni, hot and fresh. I take cash or card.”
A woman holding a can of beer and half-submerged in the shallow water stares back at him.
“What are you, like, Domino’s to go?” she asks.
“Nah, I’m from Madison Avenue Pizza in Dunedin,” Ferraro says.
“Oh, you’re so freaking smart,” she says. A guy from one of the boats wades through the water, hands Ferraro a credit card and returns with a warm box of pepperoni pizza. The people on the boat scream and cheer.
Ferraro, aka the Pizza Skiff guy, spends most weekends skimming over the waves in his small blue and white boat, delivering pizzas from his Dunedin pizzeria to people on other boats.
You can’t order the pizza in advance. But if you happen to be at the right place at the right time and hear Ferraro’s baritone through his megaphone — Hey man, you want any pizza? — then you’re in luck.
Ferraro usually goes to the sandbar at Three Rooker Island and to the other Dunedin-area islands and sandbars. If the weather’s nice, he ventures down to Indian Rocks, selling pizza at small islands and sandbars along the way.
Sunburnt, slightly intoxicated and hungry, people usually greet Ferraro’s skiff with great interest. On a good day, the 39-year-old owner of Madison Avenue Pizza can sell 40 to 50 of his 14-inch pies for $20 each. One time, he had only one box left — and two customers started a bidding war over it. Another day, a guy waded through more than a 100 yards of waist-deep water to retrieve his pizza.
But sometimes, people are just bewildered.
“It’s funny, the way you can see it in people’s faces when you pull up and they’re like, ‘Wait, you’re selling pizzas?’” Ferraro says.
On a recent Saturday, Ferraro parks his boat at one of the Dunedin docks and loads it with a black warmer bag containing 10 pizzas and a cooler full of bottled water and Monster energy drinks.
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As he maneuvers away from the docks, Ferraro explains that he bought the skiff — a 15-foot Scout boat designed to go in super shallow water — through Facebook Marketplace.
At the rear of the boat, the wind catches two flags that are covered in cartoon pizza slices and display “The Pizza Skiff” in bold lettering. Ferraro wears a light blue shirt and a floral hat, both emblazoned with “Madison Avenue Pizza.”
“I’m the type of guy who takes a concept way too far,” he says, chuckling.
Born in Largo, Ferraro started working in a pizzeria when he was 14. He comes from a family of restaurant owners, and his dad would often make huge pots of pasta, cacciatore and other “stick-to-your-ribs Italian foods.”
Ferraro graduated from the College of Hospitality at Florida State University and worked for years in various kitchens, from Italian restaurants to hotels in South Florida. Five years ago, he and his family — he has a wife and twin boys — moved to Dunedin and started Madison Avenue Pizza.
The skiff bounces over the turquoise waves, and a school of dolphins surfaces nearby. Ferraro points at the shore.
“See those teal-colored condos? My restaurant is right behind them,” he said.
Because Ferraro’s pizzeria is only a couple miles from the docks, his staff can drive right to the water and transfer fresh pizzas to the boat, allowing him to restock for multiple trips in a single day.
When Ferraro took the boat out for the first time in early May, he thought he would be able to sell only a few pizzas. But he ended up selling dozens.
“It was freaking chaos,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Damn, I’m on to something.’”
Ferraro slows the skiff. He’s nearing Three Rooker Island, where people have anchored their boats next to a thin sand bar. He sidles up to a boat that has his “target demographic”: people in their 20s drinking beer and blasting music.
“Hey, are you the Pizza Skiff guy? I followed you on Instagram last night,” says a man in pink swim trunks.
“Woah, I saw you on TV the other day,” another man says.
For Ferraro, running the Pizza Skiff is mostly about marketing. He makes way more money through his brick-and-mortar restaurant, but nothing attracts attention like hot slices of pepperoni pizza delivered by boat.
By the end of the day, after two trips, Ferraro has sold 17 pizzas, and he’s ready to head home.
“I feel like I hacked the system,” he says, grinning. “What other pizzeria owner gets to drive a boat around on a Saturday and sell pizzas? It’s like my two favorite things.”