Million Dollar Slice

Chris Barrett, AKA the PizzaPusha, the man who revoluntized the weed indsutry.
Barrett’s journey to pot pizza began in 2015. Looking to get in on the marijuana gold rush, but not sure what part of the industry to focus on, Barrett relocated to America’s cannabis capital, Humboldt County, California, where he rented a five-acre property in Eureka and started growing. “These hippies had me over, served me a gourmet cannabis-infused meal, and I’m thinking, This is the future. This is what’s missing in New York City,” he says. “A lot of people like me would rather eat and smoke weed with their friends than drink.” 

The next year, Barrett moved back to New York, and by 2017, he had hatched a plan to start a cannabis-pizza delivery service. He sourced the best supplies and recipes Bensonhurst could offer and taught himself to cook pizza. 
He lived in a basement below a kitchen, where he tested different infusions, the exact ingredients of which he will not reveal. “It’s a science,” he says, raising his eyebrows to emphasize that I should not ask about the recipe again.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Pizza Pusha’s Instagram DMs were flooded with stoners hoping to purchase $55 pepperoni pizzas. Barrett says the business grew from 20 employees to, at its peak, 70; today, 35 team members cook and drive pizzas to 50 to 100 distanced and isolated customers per day in the tristate area.

About Christopher Barrett

Christopher Barrett was born in 1973 in Bensonhurst. His father remained absent throughout his childhood. When his 30-year-old mother began dating a 21-year-old pizza deliveryman, Barrett objected: “No offense to pizza guys, but I thought we deserved better.”
Barrett’s mom married the pizza guy, but the young Pusha refused to accept a stepfather who was only nine years his senior. Barrett begged his elderly Italian-immigrant grandparents to take him in, and he moved into their small apartment above the B&A Pork Store. Money was tight, so Barrett sold Jolly Ranchers in the halls of his middle school, earning himself the nickname the Candyman. He made a ten-cents profit on each, using the money to purchase sneakers and other childhood luxury items. He spent his early-teenage years smoking weed and skipping school, hanging with connected guys on the streets of Bensonhurst. “I was a really bad kid because I didn’t have anyone to tell me not to be,” he says. “I would come home, my grandmother would be asleep in front of the TV. She would wake up and ask if I had allergies. She was too old to realize that I was high.”
At 15, Barrett declared his independence. He dropped out of school, renting the basement apartment in his friend (the future club promoter and Kardashian acquaintance) Chris Reda’s mother’s house on 17th Avenue. “He didn’t have anywhere else to go, so of course we took him in,” says Reda. “But I wasn’t worried. Chris has always been wise for his years, and once he has a plan, there’s nothing that can stop him.” To pay the rent, Barrett worked at a gas station. “The mob controlled everything in Bensonhurst, so that’s what you knew as success: a gangster, a bank robber, a criminal — not a gas pumper,” he says. One day, he tells me, the notorious bank robber Dominick Natoli offered him a lift home from the station in his 1977 white Lincoln Continental. “That was the beginning of my life of crime. I’m just happy I got it out of my way in my teens,” Barrett says without a hint of irony.
He was offered work stealing getaway vehicles for Natoli’s bank heists. “It was exciting, and I was making enough money to quit pumping gas,” he says. Over the course of a year, Barrett stole upwards of 15 cars for Natoli, a small portion of the auto thefts the teen was doing at the time. The gig ended when Natoli was again arrested for bank robbery. Then Joey Amato — a captain in the Colombo crime family — approached Barrett. Amato invited him to spend his days at a nondescript Italian social club, where he could have all the free cold cuts and chicken parm he could eat. In the Mafia version of an internship, Barrett became their errand boy.
The late ’80s was an eventful time to be around the Colombos. At the top of the company, Colombo captain Michael Franzese’s oil-and-gas scheme defrauded the government of tens of millions of dollars. On the ground floor, Candyman Barrett sold Tootsie Rolls in bodegas, raising money for fake missing-children charities.
In 1991, acting Colombo boss Victor “Little Vic” Orena staged a coup after Colombo boss Carmine Persico was incarcerated for life. Persico allegedly took out a hit on Orena, but the plot failed when Orena evaded the ambush outside his home. Brooklyn erupted in violence. “I went from carrying money under my shirt to carrying it underneath a bulletproof vest,” says Barrett. “Every day, I woke up thinking this could be my last.” The third Colombo war was one of the most brutal and violent in New York Mafia history, with dozens shot, killed, or never seen again.
Amato had situated Barrett in a luxury apartment. In return, Barrett says, he was asked to hide guns for Orena. When FBI agents raided Barrett’s apartment, they discovered several firearms, and Barrett was charged with multiple felonies. He spent most of 1992 on Rikers Island awaiting trial. The New York State charges against Barrett were dismissed, but the federal government recharged him in a RICO case, along with five other co-defendants.
But it wasn’t all harmless scams. The Bread Association was a Colombo price-fixing scheme that controlled the price of bread in the city. When one baker revolted, selling his wares for five cents more, Amato told Barrett to handle it. Barrett says he assembled a crew of kids from Bensonhurst. The aspiring mafiosi waited outside the man’s bakery with baseball bats and beat him into submission at 3 a.m. Looking back on his teenage years, Barrett admits, “I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t have many cards to play. They were the only good people to me up until that point.”
Years later, Barrett had graduated to collecting bags of money. “Nobody would have looked at this kid walking into the bar and thought, He’s carrying $80,000,” he says of his days visiting Brooklyn bars and social clubs to collect Joker Poker–machine money for the Colombos. “I was 17, pocketing $1,500 a week, thinking I’ve made it. Then the war started.”
“Barrett was a driver and personal bodyguard to Joseph Amato,” the indictment read. “Barrett maintained an arsenal of weapons for Joseph Amato’s crew, which he distributed to the crews members on an ‘as needed’ basis,” and he “assisted Tommy Cappa and Joseph Amato in the disposal of the motor vehicle used by Christopher Liberatore on the night Matteo Speranza was murdered.” He waited in federal jail for more than three years before pleading guilty to aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in relation to “a conspiracy to murder Gregory Scarpa.” In jail, Barrett kept to himself and was mostly left alone by other inmates — “the one good thing about being connected to a Mafia case of that magnitude,” he says. At 22 years old, Barrett was sentenced to five years in federal prison.

After his release in 1998, Barrett, now 24, borrowed money from a friend and moved to San Antonio, where he opened his first Sprint mobile-phone store. “I wanted to stay clean. Be a better person,” he says. “That meant staying out of Brooklyn. Cell phones were hard to get, but I knew they were the future. So I became a cell-phone pusha.” Within three years, Barrett had 16 Sprint stores in cities across the country. Eventually, competition drove down the price of phones. “The gold rush was over, and so was my parole.”
Barrett shut down the stores and returned to hanging with his old friend Chris Reda. Before he was Scott Disick’s buddy, making regular appearances on Keeping Up With the Kardashians and promoting COVID-era nightlife in Tulum, Reda was the top spring-break promoter in the tristate area, marketing events to college kids as they traveled to Mexico. (“We were throwing the first MTV Spring Break after-parties,” Reda brags.) These parties expanded to regular Las Vegas pool parties. He hired 50 Cent, the Game, Eminem, and other popular hip-hop artists of the time to perform at his events, and he put Barrett in charge of the talent, making sure they arrived at their hotel, had a nice meal, and got to the venues. In Cancún and Vegas, Barrett connected with many of the hip-hop stars he would later send his Stoned Pizza.
Barrett started a business of his own, Send A Package, to make it easier to mail packages to prisoners. Rather than purchasing and shipping their own items, an inmate’s friends and family members could log on to the website and select from some 3,500 different items, and the company would guarantee their delivery. The site sold everything from hygiene products to food and soon stumbled into the music business. The New York State Correction requirements deemed CDs illegal; cassette tapes have screws in them and were therefore also banned. Through a connection with Jay-Z associate Shawn “Pecas” Costner, Barrett got Universal Records to provide him with tapes without screws, and he became the sole music distributor in the state’s prison system. Prodigy from Mobb Deep became a close friend and a useful link to many rappers looking to get their music into prisons.
When a few years had passed and the company still wasn’t profitable, an investor sued, claiming mismanagement of funds. “It’s easy to point blame. Not only did I lose my money, but everyone else did too,” said one investor, who asked not to be named. “Chris is a dreamer, but he’s not a corporate guy. I have nothing negative to say about him as a person, but hopefully he learned as much from Send A Package as I did. Or else, I venture to say, the same thing will happen with Stoned Pizza.”

Barrett denies any mismanagement but ultimately decided to walk away. Forever the marketer, he tells me, “I needed to move on to something new. Marijuana has been my passion since the ’80s.”

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