A Q&A with owners of Pizzata Pizzeria in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Davide: Our concept was simple — a neighborhood pizzeria with a simple menu where we could focus on delivering pizzas with irresistibly tasty dough. As we opened, the Covid-19 pandemic was unfolding and we pivoted towards creating a product that was better suited for takeout and delivery.
Vinny: Pizzata is more of an homage to New York-style pizza than a direct replica. It has the capabilities of our ovens in mind, and the new Covid-19 market conditions we found ourselves mixed in. Our goal was to deliver a product that pushed everyone’s comfort levels, especially in terms of a bien cuit bake. We like to believe the expression ‘people eat with their eyes and noses first, then their mouths’. In terms of process, we blend several types of flours together at each step to achieve the desired flavor profiles, dough rheology, and to meet our customer’s expectations in the final product. It’s an indirect mix coupled with a long maturation process, stretching up to five days in some cases. The sourdough starter gets maintained several times a day as well.
What is it about naturally leavened dough that has drawn the attention of the industry and consumers?
Vinny: No question, the Covid-19 pandemic shook everyone to the pizza bones. With more people at home and in their kitchens, it’s no surprise to us that people went back to how to make bread began. Sourdough starters became all the rage and people found comfort and fascination wrapped up in one.
Harnessing a sourdough starter allows you to achieve flavor profiles that are unparalleled, and limitless, just like individual preferences. For us, a quote by Philly food critic, Craig LaBan, still makes our teeth drool as he describes one of our pizzas. He says, “a crust that crackles with a flavorful chew and roasty tang that reverbs after a slice is gone”. Customers with their two years of hands-on sourdough baking experience have become accustomed to a more robust and flavorful dough. They’re no longer content with bread they find at the supermarkets, and we think the pizza industry has the next staple in their crosshairs.
How are you able to stand out in Philly’s competitive pizza scene?
Davide: Philadelphians have an adventurous and diverse pizza appetite, which undoubtedly helped us find a footing and develop the mentality that there is no ‘best pizza’, only personal preferences. We stay focused, ensure our product meets our standards, and most importantly, support everyone in the industry. You can always learn from others if you stop and take the time to listen. The pandemic has brought the overarching restaurant community more together in that respect.
How have you been able to stay focused amidst rising prices and a labor crunch?
Davide: The truth is it’s been difficult to maintain a positive mindset through all the sticker shock, and as the EOM approaches, you can’t stop those gut-retching feelings of uncertainty in your stomach. We found ourselves trying to work closer with our suppliers and food purveyors, and simply trying to find other ways to tighten our belts and get through these lean times.
Also, the whole recruitment and hiring process is costly and time consuming for a small business. If it’s not soaring food costs, it’s the uncertainty of a tight labor market that keeps us awake at night. Fortunately, we’ve been blessed with a fantastic staff. They’ve been loyal and hardworking since day one and our ambitious standards are only rivaled by our unwavering commitment to our staff. They get compensated extremely well, and we do our best to be conscious of their needs and requests. It’s been a team effort, sometimes challenging for both sides, but we’re working together and improving lines of communication to empower one another.