‘Stolen Dough’ Docudrama Details Bensonhurt Inventor’s Legal Battle with Pizza Hut

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

The next time you are salivating over a stuffed crust pizza, consider its origins. It just might be another Brooklyn invention.  A new docudrama, Stolen Dough, directed by Stefano Da Frè, tells the story of Bensonhurst native Anthony Mongiello, claiming him as the real inventor of the stuffed crust pizza at the tender age of 18.

According to that same narrative, his patent was stolen by Pizza Hut, who brands the dish as Original Stuffed Crust® Pizza. The controversy stems from Mongiello’s history of communication with the company, including pitching his patent, which dates back to 1987.

The film, now streaming on Amazon Prime, tells the story of Mongiello’s one-billion-dollar lawsuit against the famous pizza franchise. At its heart, Stolen Dough is a story about capitalism, competition, and theft.

Prior to inventing the stuffed crust pizza, Mongiello worked at a local pizzeria that his friend’s father owned.

“I had a lot of respect for the small business owners, who put in 15-16 hours each day, with all the preparation of ingredients, and running a small business,” wrote Mongiello in an email forwarded to the Brooklyn Star by his media rep, Ryan McCormick of Goldman McCormick Public Relations. “However, most importantly, the person I respected  the most was my father. He worked in the manufacturing of cheese products and held several patents all related to manufacturing inventions.”

Mongiello continued crediting his father in saying, “My father was a guiding force in my life as an inventor. He was the man who invented the actual Polio String Cheese stick that was sold as snacks to families across America. We were extremely inventive as a family. My father taught me to never take anything for granted and that supplied me with the values I still hold to this day.”

Mongiello has more than 30 years of experience in the cheese industry, most notably as CEO of Formaggio Cheese.

Getting Stolen Dough from concept to streaming was a years-long process. In 2022, director Da Frè, working in collaboration with Laura Pelligrini from Rosso International Films, won a grant from the Russo brothers, known for directing four Marvel films. The brothers, Anthony Russo and Joseph Russo, who are active members of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), fund the The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum Grant, which is administered by the National Italian American Foundation.

Mongiello said, “Stefano had pitched my story to them, and they loved the aspect of a true Italian American drama. The rest is history! Stolen Dough was only 1 out 7 features chosen to get funding and support from the Russo Brothers out of 1, 200 submissions.” The project won an additional grant from the Sons and Daughters of Italian American Foundation in May 2023.

Stolen Dough runs 46 minutes and is shot in a crime-suspense style. The film mixes interviews with stylized re-enactments of a young Mongiello inventing the stuffed crust pizza, pitching the idea to Pizza Hut and other major pizza franchises, and bonding with his brother over family history and pride.

“Seeing my story on the big screen and now streaming, is a dream come true,” wrote Mongiello. “I wanted to share my story with people for a very long time.”

Drive-in movies return for a second year

With the onset of the pandemic last spring, New Yorkers lost access to many of the city’s cultural institutions. However, one blast from the past experienced a renaissance: drive-in movie theaters.
Co-sponsored by the office of the Queens Borough President, the New York Hall of Science will be hosting a free drive-in film series for the second year in a row.
Following last year’s wildly successful screenings, the “Free Movie Nights at the Queens Drive-In” program plans on hosting six free events throughout the spring and summer of 2021.
“We’re not out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19 just yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t safely enjoy evenings in Flushing Meadows Corona Park with our family, friends and neighbors,” said Borough President Donovan Richards. “From kids flicks to cinematic classics, there is something for every family to enjoy on the big screen this spring.”
The first screening was held on May 4. Appropriately, the original Star Wars was shown to celebrate “May the Fourth Be With You.” Future screenings will include the films Inside Out, Moonlight, Coming to America, Monsoon Wedding, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. A full list of movies and show times is available at queensdrivein.com.
The Museum of the Moving Image, Parks Department, and Brooklyn-based non-profit Rooftop Films are also helping organize the events, while Queens Night Market will provide food from local vendors.
Social distancing will be strictly enforced, and all guests must register for screenings online before arriving.
Last year saw a resurgence in drive-in movies throughout the five boroughs, including the Skyline Drive-In in Greenpoint, the Bel-Aire Diner Drive-In in Astoria, and the Brooklyn Army Terminal Drive-In in Sunset Park.
For many New Yorkers, these unique cinematic experiences have provided a safe and novel way to enjoy their city during the pandemic.
“When we conceived of the Queens Drive-In last year, our goal was to create an accessible space where the people of the city could come together safely to experience the communal joy of cinema,” explained Rooftop Films president Dan Nuxoll. “We have presented more than two-dozen free screenings over the last few months, including memorable New York premieres of many of the films that were recently celebrated at the Academy Awards.”

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