By Roberto Vergalito
The way back
By Roberto Vergalito
Hello, all my fellow pizzaiolos! Let me say right off the oven, it’s GREAT to be back in this amazing business.
Hello, all my fellow pizzaiolos! Let me say right off the oven, it’s GREAT to be back in this amazing business. It hasn’t been long since I reopened, and I have to say, it has not been easy, but it has definitely been rewarding. Even though I had a great name and product with a huge client base five years ago, now I am starting from the bottom all over again. This isn’t a bad thing: it’s been a very humbling experience. Over the last while, I have seen a steady incline in business from past customers and many new customers.
My drive and passion grow every day, and bring me to the topic of this column, which is staying on top of your industry. I can’t tell you how important it is to constantly research, read and make sure you are on the cutting edge. The reason I love the pizza business so much is that the possibilities are endless. You can top a pizza with just about anything. Just think; a couple hundred years ago, all the Greeks put on pizza was olive and vegetables. Today, we are topping pies with the most tantalizing sauces, spices, cheeses, meats and vegetables. From thin crust to deep dish, and folded over every which way, we do it all in order to make our pizzeria stand out above the rest.
I have found some great websites that educate and stimulate our creative pizza senses. I like http://pizza.com/fun-facts for some history and statistics on pizza. Also make sure you are keeping up to date on what is happening in the Canadian pizza market. What works in the U.S. doesn’t always work here in Canada. Know your backyard, and you will know how to navigate the landscape. Great customer service is an important trend that should stand out above all else. With all these automated companies out there, I want to make sure my pizzeria doesn’t turn into a “press 1 for English” business. Customers want to speak to you and they want someone with knowledge to guide them when ordering. Be kind and courteous to all of them; they are paying you for your hard work. Give them what they want and allow them to give you the respect you wish to receive for the craft you worked so hard for.
Years ago, I found a great idea in our industry that has worked well for me, which is the pizza cone. It’s a great concept to have pizza in the shape of ice cream and have it be hot rather than cold. Basically, it’s a cone made with pizza dough and filled with sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you can put in it. It seems these pizza cones have started to take off, and why not. Kids devour this stuff. It’s very creative and I have also found it to be very lucrative.
Sometimes a small investment leads to big profits. People love new menu items, and there is no need to go overboard on advertising them. When customers love your product, word of mouth goes a long way and it’s free.
Also, if you are not offering anything in the healthy pizza category, now would be a good time to start. It can be as simple as tweaking your ingredients a little. Cut back on salts, sugars and use a lower fat cheese. There are thousands of ways to create a healthier pizza and it doesn’t have to cut into your bottom line. Remember, pizza already has your four basic food groups.
And last but not least, I have found a new topping for pizza that is completely out of this world. It is a mixture of a variety of cured meats turned into a crumble that is prepared by an artisanal cured meats company in the Niagara region, which makes it also a local product for my pizzeria in St. Catharines, Ont. It pairs beautifully with a homemade Sicilian pesto and mozzarella.
Don’t get left behind in the industry! Stay on top, strive for new heights and have fun.
May all of my fellow pizzaiolos have a successful and busy New Year.
Roberto Vergalito is “the Pizza Dude,” and he owns and operates Roberto’s Pizza Passion in St. Catharines, Ont. Comments and questions for Roberto can be sent to him c/o Canadian Pizza Magazine, P.O. Box 530, 105 Donly Dr. S., Simcoe, ON, N3Y 4N5, or fax 1-888-404-1129.