In the Kitchen
By Tony Palermo
Learn how dessert pizzas can increase your bottom line
By Tony Palermo
Are you looking for a way to marry sweet and savoury?
Are you looking for a way to marry sweet and savoury? Dessert pizzas can be an authentic and delicious addition to any menu. And, with most of the big pizza chains offering only a basic version (if anything at all), dessert pizzas can give a competitive advantage to smaller pizzerias that introduce them. Here are the stories of two restaurants who increased their bottom line by including dessert pizzas on their menu, plus tips on how you can create your own.
|Dessert pizzas can give a competitive advantage to smaller pizzerias that introduce them.|
Pizza e Pazzi
With two locations in the heart of Toronto, Pizza e Pazzi offers authentic Neapolitan cuisine, including pizza cooked in a custom-built, brick, wood-burning oven from Naples, Italy. Co-owner Sandrelle Scimo, who is Sri Lankan but considers herself international, met her Italian husband and co-owner Danilo while at a conference in Miami. Their mutual love for food – especially pizza – was one of the things that drew the two together.
“I think it was on our first or second date when we talked about how great it would be to open a pizzeria,” says Sandrelle.
Over the years, the two spent time travelling all over Italy, trying pizza from several regions. Sandrelle says they were initially leaning towards offering Roman-style pizza; after all, Danilo was from Rome and it was something he was intimately familiar with. But all of that changed after they tried the Neapolitan pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, the pizzeria made famous by Julia Roberts in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.
“It’s there that we fell in love with Neapolitan pizza,” explains Sandrelle. “In fact, we ate there so much it got to the point that they started to usher us in past the lineups when they saw us coming.”
Before opening his first Toronto location with Sandrelle, Danilo studied at the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) in Naples. The AVPN is a non-profit organization charged with promoting and teaching students how to make authentic Neapolitan pizza, and Danilo insisted he was going to offer Torontonians a true Neapolitan experience.
Pizza e Pazzi’s menu now lists close to 30 pizza combinations, including a Nutella-based dessert pizza.
Which begs the question – is dessert pizza authentic?
“Absolutely,” says Sandrelle. “Nutella-based dessert pizzas are common in Italy. We add our own twist by topping it with a choice of fresh berries, flambéed bananas or coconut sprinkles.”
They also offer a different dessert pizza style consisting of deep-fried pizza dough topped with Nutella and icing sugar.
Sandrelle says Pizza e Pazzi’s dessert pizzas are extremely popular, even when stacked against a dessert menu that includes other homemade Italian favourites like tiramisu and cannoli. She estimates a whopping six out of every 10 desserts sold are their Nutella-based dessert pizzas.
Building on success, the Scimos are releasing a new dessert pizza that uses the light Italian custard zabaglione instead of Nutella as a base.
“Dessert pizzas are perfect for sharing,” explains Sandrelle. “And, they rewarm really well too. If the customer can’t finish it, they simply take it with them and rewarm it a little later on.”
Ottawa-based restaurateur Ion Aimers is no rookie when it comes to successful restaurants and great food. Named “Restaurateur of the Year” on at least two occasions, Aimers is best known for starting the famous gourmet burger brand The WORKS, which now includes over 20 locations throughout Ontario.
Approximately three and a half years ago, Aimers launched gourmet pizzeria ZaZaZa, which now includes three locations in Ottawa. He says while his pizzeria started with a successful dessert menu that included gelato and small, homemade desserts, he wanted to add something different. That’s when he realized different was right in his own backyard.
“Adding dessert pizza was a natural progression,” says Aimers. “And since we use the same crust, it’s a great cross-use of a product as well.”
ZaZaZa offers two dessert pizzas – the Crispy Punch, made with peanut butter sauce, milk chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, Crispy Crunch chunks and whipped cream; and the I’m a Good Girlfriend, made with Nutella, fresh berries, braised marshmallows and a dusting of icing sugar.
Aimers says that he wishes he had a romantic story for how he came up with his dessert pizzas, but it was simply a matter of combining his favourite flavours. A funnier story, he says, was his attempt to introduce a mocha-style flavour. Realizing he couldn’t put liquid on a pizza, he tried mixing instant coffee with the Nutella. But instead of breaking down, the coffee remained crunchy.
“It was awful,” says Aimers, laughing. “But that’s the fun part, right? The ones you get wrong can be just as good to learn from as the ones you get right.”
He estimates that out of the approximately 20 per cent of ZaZaZa’s customers who order dessert, 30 per cent of those order dessert pizzas. Acknowledging those aren’t huge numbers, Aimers says it’s still worthwhile to make the dessert pie.
“Our gelato will always be more popular simply because it’s a lighter way of ending the meal and cleansing the palate,” he reasons. “But customers looking for a different type of dessert or looking to split one enjoy the dessert pizzas. At the end of the day, offering dessert pizzas helps increase our average cheque while satisfying the customer’s sweet tooth.”
For operators looking to introduce dessert pizzas, Aimers says to pick flavours you enjoy but keep it simple. He also cautions operators to watch costs, which can quickly get out of control.
“Anytime you’re dealing with chocolate, fruit or nuts, costs can quickly jump and become prohibitive,” he warns. “At the end of the day, you need to be able to make some money and not many people are going to want to pay $10-$12 for a dessert pizza.”
However you slice it, add-ons can help bolster your bottom line, Pizza e Pazzi (www.pizzaepazzi.ca ) and ZaZaZa (www.zazazapizza.com ) have found ways to leave no money on the table by putting a new twist on their pies.
Tony Palermo is a freelance writer based in Ottawa.