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A heart shaped pizza topped with tomato, cheese and basil on a wooden pizza peel
A heart shaped pizza topped with tomato, cheese and basil on a wooden pizza peel

10 Famous Pizza Makers on Falling in Love With Pizza

Falling in love can happen quickly. It can happen slowly. It can blindside you with the force of its feeling, or it can slowly sneak up onto you over days, weeks, or months. It’s the same whether we’re talking about meeting your person… or meeting your pizza.

Want to know how your favorite famous pizza makers (and pizza superfans) first fell in love and began their journey towards sauce and cheese perfection? Read on.

Love at first sight
“I grew up eating slices cut from big, 20-inch pies from Pizza Village in a strip mall in Aberdeen, New Jersey. Every Tuesday and Friday, my family gathered around our table for takeout. I loved opening the box, the steam and savoury cheese aromas escaping as we each grabbed a slice, sharing as a family.”

-Dan Richer, pizza maker behind Razza Pizza Artiginale in Jersey City, New Jersey, The Joy of Pizza

Fascati Pizza…standing there in the heat of its oven, a long shadow away from the rise of the Brooklyn Bridge, eating slices after long afternoons spent riding a skateboard. This was pizza.” - Sam Sifton, assistant managing editor at The New York Times, “Pizza Cognition Theory,” from Pizza: A Slice of Heaven

“It’s what I always wanted to do.” - Nick Angelis, owner of Nick’s Pizza in New York City, on becoming a pizza maker, from Pizza: A Slice of Heaven

“My grandmother from my father’s side, she made pizza. It was something special to eat her pizza on Sunday.” - Giorgia Caporuscio, owner and head pizzaiola of Don Antonio in New York City, “Women Pizza Makers in the US”

“In 1974, I started culinary studies at the Bergeland secondary school in Stavanger. Just up the street from the school, No. 28 Pizza Pub had just opened its doors. I had barely heard of pizza at the time, and certainly never tasted it. The kitchen fan blew the previously unknown pizza smell right out onto the street and down to the schoolyard. I’ll never forget it! It was the best aroma I had ever known. And then I tasted my first slice — wow!” - Tore Gjesteland, owner and managing director of the Jonas B. Gundersen in Porsgrunn, Norway and author of Passion for Pizza: A Journey Through Thick and Thin to Find the Pizza Elite

On the job
“Pizza is something I just did. My first job was at a pizzeria when I was 13 – dragging bags of flour from the basement to the mixer upstairs.” - Chris Bianco, James Beard Award winner and owner of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona, from Pizza Quest with Peter Reinhart

“It was my senior year, so I was 17, I guess. It was my first job, so I didn’t really know what I was doing, but they trained me to be a pizza maker. I ended up studying abroad in college [in Italy], and that’s kind of where my bond with Tony Gemignani really started. Because it wasn’t just that I liked to make pizza, but I had a connection with the culture— the people, the language.” - Laura Meyer, World Pizza Cup champion and head chef at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco, California, from Seven Ovens Blog

“My grandfather started out in the ‘30s, then my father joined him in the ‘40s. In the late ‘50s, they started making pizza. I was born a few years later and grew up in Dad's pizzeria. I listened to Dad, I watched and admired him.” - Franco Peppe, chef and owner of Pepe in Grani outside Caserta, Italy, and creator of the Margherita Sbagliata, translated from an interview in Italian, “When Local Goes World Class: An Interview with Franco Pepe”

It was hot, hot, hot
“It’s such a craft, unlike using an oven. It’s all about understanding the flames. They’re like living things. Once I saw him [Tony Gemignani] doing that, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.” - Ann Kim, James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of Pizzeria Lola in the Twin Cities, from Twin Cities Pioneer Press

An obsessive love
“Having a new baby meant spending more time at home, and creating pizzas became a joyful obsession of mine. The process of stretching out dough was a mini-meditation snatched between emails, phone calls, and games of peekaboo.” - Kristian Tapaninaho, founder and co-CEO of Ooni Pizza Ovens, from Cooking with Fire

“My love story with pizza didn’t truly take flight until I graduated college and broke up with my boyfriend at the time. Completely over men at that moment, I made a decision that I didn’t need a man in my life and that pizza would be my boyfriend. I jokingly made it official on Facebook with a photo album in 2007. So, considering my pizza journey began with a breakup, it’s even funnier now that I’m married to a world champion pizza maker— who I met at Pizza Expo, got engaged to at Pizza Expo, and had a pizza wedding with.” - Shealyn Brand Coniglio, pizza obsessive, pizza fashion maven, and pizza maker Nino Coniglio’s other half, as told to Ooni.

Previous article 2023: The year you learn to make pizza like a pro

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