Why the Pizzaiolo
The Story Behind the Name
Pizza lovers – you may be surprised to learn that the origin of pizza is not from the country that made it famous, Italy. The genesis of pizza – the Italian word for “pie” – stems from the early Greeks who would bake flat bread and top it with olive oil, figs, anchovies, and fresh herbs. Similar to what we now know as focaccia, this early version of the Neapolitan pizza eventually made it its way to Naples, Italy. Once the tomato was discovered (for a long time it was thought to be poisonous) and added to the bread, this relatively inexpensive, yet highly flavorful combination, became a staple among all classes. The first known pizza shop emerged near Naples in Port Alba, and it’s still there today. As for the first “pizza chef,” this title is generally attributed to Don Raffaele Esposito who was commissioned to make Queen Margherita a pizza for her visit of the king in the late 1800s. Made with basil, mozzarella cheese, and tomatoes, Esposito’s inventive ingredient combination greatly impressed the queen, and it soon took off. As a nod to the queen’s endorsement, Don Esposito named his new recipe Pizza Margherita.
Just as the pizza itself weaves a rich history, so does the role of the pizzaiolo. A pizzaiolo is a professional pizza maker, typically in the traditional Italian style. Café Piazza’s owner, Vito La Fata is a second-generation pizzaiolo whose family is from Sicily. Vito spent summers in Sicily when he was younger and became fascinated with the pizzaiolo trade. He remembers how Saturday nights were designated for family time, and pizza was an essential part of those outings. But going out for pizza was not simply about deciding which pizzeria/pizza you were in the mood for – it was about which pizzaiolo you wanted to visit. A highly respected profession, each pizza chef brought his own charisma to the tables and engaged freely with his customers. It was the job (and privilege) of the house pizzaiolo to create a custom vibe around his eatery where patrons were drawn to the unique personality the pizzeria upheld.
This energy the Sicilian pizzaiolos bring to their own pizzerias is the same passion for people, pizza, and community that Vito created with Café Piazza. The pizzaiolos at Café Piazza want you to become a regular. See why they believe a pizzaiolo is more than a profession – it’s an identity. Pop in and chat while you watch your pizza perfectly sear in Big Mama, or stop by for a quick cappuccino and say hi to your Benton Park neighbors. Experience the old-world magic that pizza crafting and gathering emanates at Café Piazza.