To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, I planned a few interviews with Italian women working in pizza making abroad, that I edited for a video I posted on the Italian website.
Giorgia Caporuscio is a name well know in the pizza industry in the United States: she runs the Don Antonio pizza restaurant in New York, and works as a pizzaiola since she was 19. We had a chat on her professional development, from the beginning until today, her role as a woman in this industry, and the responsibility she feels as an ambassador of Italian values.
How did you start in the world of pizza making?
I come from Terracina, which is a small town halfway from Rome and Naples. I didn’t mean to become pizzaiola, but I did like to work with the public. I attended the hospitality institute in Formia. Then, when I was 19, I reached my father in New York: he had opened a pizzeria, so I went to give him some help.
I ended up in a totally different world: I was no longer in a small town where friends would meet in the evening to go drink something. At that time I couldn’t speak English, so it was hard to meet new people. So I focused on my work in the pizzeria.
Our team was all Italian, I felt at home. You know, the restaurant staff sort of becomes a second family. Although they tended to mock me a bit because I wasn’t able to cool. But I found myself to be really determined, and I wanted to learn the job. This was what sparked my love for pizza: I think I had it in my blood.
At one point I decided to go to Naples, where I stayed three years to learn the craft from the master pizza makers. Meanwhile, my father opened up this pizzeria, Don Antonio. So I came back to help him out. The following years were very intense, I’ve never really stayed away from the counter.
I also started to follow my father in his passion for teaching. We traveled a lot around the States to teach people how to make pizza. Until we decided to open a pizza academy here in New York. It was quite a demanding commitment, as we started early in the morning with classes of 25-30 people, before we opened our pizzeria for lunch.
At one point, I decided I wanted to focus more on the pizzeria, and went to study business management. In February 2020 I took Don Antonio in my hands. Literally, as I not only run the restaurant, but I went back to the counter to make pizzas for my clients.
What did people think of a woman who worked as a pizzaiola, eleven years ago? And what change have you seen in their mind after all those years?
In the beginning, I did feel like I was an alien. Bear in mind, eleven years ago the job of a pizzaiolo didn’t have a good reputation like nowadays. Also, I was a woman, and a very young one: so I had to work three times harder to gain consideration. Even in big events like the Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, people found it hard to believe I was the one making the dough.
I was treated like a unicorn. Luckily, during these years, the number of women working in bakeries and pizzerias has grown a lot. I decided to create a group, called “Women in Pizza”, to highlight their value. There are a lot of women that have started to run their family business. And we organized a lot of events together.
If I look at Italy, maybe our situation is better in terms of the role of women in this profession. Even in Canada, I know a lot of them running a restaurant. And I believe in the future we will see many more of them. I think this pandemic, although has created a lot of damages, has allowed many of them to focus on their interest, and find out that a passion could turn into a job.
As an ambassador of the Neapolitan culture and cuisine in a big city like New York, how do you feel this responsibility?
I and all my colleagues have worked hard to break all the stereotypes on Italians abroad: and those stereotypes were quite common until only ten years ago. In the past Italian immigrants didn’t have the opportunity to communicate like we have today. Now we need to cooperate and work even harder to spread the real values of our culture.
Would you like to go back to Italy, in the future?
I don’t think so. Had I have to decide whether to come back to Europe, I’d like to travel around to provide consultancy to open up new pizzerias. I remember the enthusiasm of many foreigners coming to my courses to learn pizza making because they wanted to open their restaurants. I’d like to give that kind of help to the people.