Mobile pizzaiuolo Gianni Gallucci

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BusinessIt’s been more than a century and countless pies since Raffaele Esposito popularized pizza as we know it today in 1889. His pizzeria is still open in Naples. And Gianni Gallucci, owner of the Chicago area’s Zero Ottantuno Mobile Pizzeria Napoletana, has worked hard to master that region’s style.

“I’ve been making pizza professionally for more 10 years now and suddenly decided to do the unthinkable: I went back to school,” Gallucci says. In 2013, he attended the Academy of Pizza, a school hosted by the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, and earned his APN certification: as in, really earned it.

“Everyday for almost two months I got up at 6 a.m., walked to the station and took the train to attend school until 4 p.m.,” Gallucci recalls. “After class I took the train to my maestro’s pizzeria and worked for free until midnight. Going through this every day really made me appreciate the opportunity and strengthen my love for the craft.”

Gallucci’s personal history with Italian pizza runs deep. His parents are from an ancient town just outside Naples, and every summer since he was born he’s been back to their hometown. “While spending most of the time just being a kid with friends, we visited many pizzerias,” he says. “Every night I’d go into the pizzeria and stand by the bancone — where the pizzas where topped and stretched — and dream of one day bringing this tradition to Chicago.”

Now it’s here, his pizzeria on wheels named after the “081” area code in Naples. “I specialize in private events, birthday parties, weddings and block parties,” he says. Gallucci is also moving into corporate events and some of Chicago’s top festivals. “I also travel across the country doing trainings for new pizzerias and pizzaiuoli,” he adds.

For Gallucci, authenticity is key.

“Authentic Italian pizza and authentic Neapolitan pizza are two different things,” Gallucci points out. “Using imported products with wood in an oven doesn’t make it Neapolitan and I think that’s half of the struggle. There are many ‘wood-burning’ places out there that serve a solid product — but as far as truly Neapolitan there are only a few.”

Gallucci should know, given his background. “Growing up, my parents made many sacrifices to ensure both my brother and I never lost our heritage or family traditions.” Now, he’s working hard to pass on what was passed to him, and share it with others no matter their ethnicity.

“Our vision for the near future is to take all the revenue we make with this mobile oven and soon open a brick-and-mortar location,” Gallucci says. “This place will focus on pizza, as well as some very traditional Neapolitan street food. I’m not looking to open a chain of pizzerias, but to make a name for myself and ensure this product doesn’t lose its roots — one pizza at a time.”

To that end, making pizza isn’t merely an occupation: It’s true Italian expression.

“It’s about using one or two fresh ingredients in the simplest manner possible,” Gallucci says. “Being a pizzaiuolo in Naples is a way of life, passed down from generation to generation. That is something I hope I can achieve.”

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About Lou Carlozo

Lou Carlozo is award-winning journalist who spent 20 years reporting for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Chicago Tribune. He began writing for Fra Noi in 2007, and claims maternal and paternal southern Italian lineage. The monthly Lou&A columnist and a music reviewer/writer, his work has appeared in Reuters, Aol, The Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor and news outlets around the world. In 1993, he was a Pulitzer Prize team-reporting finalist for his contributions to the Tribune’s “Killing Our Children” series. He resides in Chicago with his wife of 21 years, a hospital chaplain, and their teenage son and daughter.

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