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Meet “Pizza Maker of the Year” Giorgia Caporuscio of Don Antonio

Our Editor-in-Chief visits Neapolitan pizzeria Don Antonio to talk with owner Giorgia Caporuscio, the 2024 "Pizza Maker of the Year."

Pizzaiola Giorgia Caporuscio inside her Manhattan restaurant Don Antonio.

Pizzaiola Giorgia Caporuscio inside her Manhattan restaurant Don Antonio.

Italian born and raised Giorgia Caporuscio is a master pizzaiola and owner of Don Antonio in New York City. The youngest woman to win the “Classic” category at the Caputo Cup (basically, the Olympics of pizza held annually in Naples) is also a soon-to-be mother of a second child and the daughter of legendary pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio of Kesté Pizza e Vino in lower Manhattan. Late last month, at the 50 Top Pizza USA award ceremony in New York, Giorgia was named “Pizza Maker of the Year” while Don Antonio was recognized as the 7th best pizzeria in America. With all the recent accolades, I thought to pay Giorgia a visit at Don Antonio to talk about the recent acclaim and to have myself a pizza.

You had quite a night at this year's 50 Top Pizza USA ceremony. Congratulations!

Thank you! I was super surprised as I never expected to be the “Pizza Maker of the Year.” This award was such an honor for me, and it felt like such an accomplishment after 14 years as a pizza maker here in America.

You also happen to be the first woman to receive this award, yes?

Yes. I think so.

Giorgia Caporuscio accepting her prize as 2024's "Pizza Maker of the Year."
Giorgia Caporuscio, with Gaspare Magnifico Fracaro from Ferrarelle mineral water, accepting her prize as 2024's "Pizza Maker of the Year."

And Don Antonio, which you fully acquired from your father earlier this year, came in at #7 in the 50 Top Pizza competition. What makes Don Antonio so special?

It starts with hard work. I am here every day with my husband, Matteo, and we have a team that focuses on consistency with regard to food preparation, service, and atmosphere. Of course, we also focus on the highest quality of ingredients. We are always trying to give something new to the customers. Matteo has created a seasonal cocktail list to pair with our pizzas. Our entire menu, which is almost 40 varieties, can also be made gluten-free.

When I took over Don Antonio, my idea was to create something that was more a reflection of me. When I was young, I didn't go often to restaurants because going to restaurants for us was only for something to celebrate. It always felt so special to go to restaurants, to eat good food, to feel comfortable, and I wanted to recreate that kind of feeling for my costumers so that they feel at home but also special at the same time.

Is this what you had in mind when you arrived here from Italy at 19 years old?

No! When I first arrived here, I had just finished high school. I had zero idea of what I wanted to do. I didn't want to go to college. All of my best friends in Italy moved to London because they could go with no visa at that point, and money wise, it was easy for them to work in the restaurant business. For me, though, my father had just opened the original Kesté on Bleecker Street in New York City. My mom suggested I go check it out. Maybe I'd learn something new. The biggest challenge for me is that I didn't know many people, and I was underage, so I couldn't go out to bars and socialize. The only way for me to be with Italian people was to stay at the restaurant with my father and his coworkers. Every day, I went there just to have fun, and everyone was making fun of me because I didn’t know how to make pasta; I didn’t know how to make pizza. So, I decided to show them that I could, to prove them wrong, and this is how I discovered my passion. This is when I realized that pizza making was in my blood.

The entrance to Don Antonio at 309 W. 50th Street in New York City.
The entrance to Don Antonio at 309 W. 50th Street in New York City.

Do women make pizza differently than men?

I think so. For women, it is easier because we don't have a lot of power in our hands. We have a soft touch, and we can control more the power that we have in our hands. We can push the dough in a way that is more effective. Neapolitan pizza has a soft dough, and men often smash the dough while women do not. Pizza making is an art, and women have a mentality that is more elastic.

Do you see yourself as a role model for women who want to be in the pizza business?

Most pizza makers are still men, of course, but this is changing. I am one of the original members of Women in Pizza, a movement that promotes gender equality and professional growth for women in the pizza industry. There are many of us who have been doing this job for years. We have strong personalities. We have a strong work ethic. We have strong backgrounds in pizza. We are owners and founders of our businesses. We come from different parts of the country, and I am proud to be a part of this movement. I dream of the younger generation of women seeing me and saying, "She can do it. So can I."

La Montanara (fried pizza) at Don Antonio.
La Montanara (fried pizza) at Don Antonio.

What is the signature pizza at Don Antonio?

I think our fried pizza, la Montanara, is our signature because it is a classic pizza, one of the oldest you can find in Naples. This is what I made when I won the competition at the Caputo Cup. I also think there is something that sparkles with this pizza as you have the light crunch from the fry but still the soft in the inside.

Can I order one?

Yes, of course!

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