Last month I had the honor of helping lead a 3-day course about opening a new pizzeria at Pizza University in Beltsville, MD. I know it sounds like the most random place to do have a pizza school but Beltsville just so happens to also be the home of Marra Forni, the Italian pizza oven company that hand-builds ovens right here in the U.S.A. Brothers Francesco and Enzo Marra thought it would be beneficial to their business and the pizza industry as a whole if new pizzeria owners had the opportunity to get their new businesses off the ground by indoctrinating them with lessons from some of the industry’s top operators. Now their “University” runs professional level classes ranging from one to several days as well as half-day classes for amateur pizzaioli.
This was my second time at the Marra Forni factory and it was just as thrilling as the first. Every oven is handmade in Maryland. It’s so incredible to see the process and to be in a room with what are soon to become the centerpieces of their respective restaurants. This phone above represents nearly a dozen pizzerias-to-be. And just to think, one day I might eat a pizza from one of them.
I was honored to lead the class along with two of my friends en mentors, John Arena of Metro Pizza in Las Vegas and Jonathan Goldsmith of Spacca Napoli in Chicago. John has been in the pizza business for over 50 years, making New York style pizza and several other styles as well as teaching the nation’s only collegiate course about pizza history and culture at UNLV. Jonathan’s Chicago pizzeria is one of the planet’s greatest Neapolitan pizzerias, which he has run for over a decade. These two are giants!
The class was composed of eight students, most of whom had never owned a pizzeria. Most had never even made their own dough before the class. We adapted quickly, concentrating on teaching Neapolitan and New York Style pizza making as well as business objectives like honing the pizzeria concept, equipment selection, marketing, pizza history, and social media best practices. It was a jammed few days and we’re hoping to get back to Beltsville ASAP to teach another round of students.