Meet the Maker: Giovanni Cesarano, King Umberto, NY
Elmont, New York
How long have you been making pizza?
I’ve been making pizzas for 20 years. I started when I was 16 years old. It was a busy holiday weekend and a pizza guy was a no show. My dad threw me on the line and I really never looked back.
Pizza is the only thing that can always put people in a good mood. Whether I’m eating or serving pizza it always puts a smile on my face as well as my customers.
What’s your favorite pizza style to make and why?
I’ve recently fell in love with pizza in pala aka, our metro pizza. It’s a Roman-style pizza which has high hydration and three-day ferment. I love making it because it’s challenging. From making and rolling the dough to the stretch and bake technique, there’s nothing easy about it. Once you nail it, it’s so much fun and you can get very creative with toppings.
How did you learn your craft?
My father, Nicola “Ciro” Cesarano came from Napoli already with some great methods so I was very lucky and blessed to have him in my life. His style is very “touch and feel” — no measurements. I also took it upon myself to take classes at Keste pizza academy and learn under the legendary Roberto Caporuscio and his daughter, Giorgia. The biggest help of all for me has been the great pizza community. People like John Arena, Michele Dameglio, Will Grant, Derek Sanchez, Vince Rotolo and so many more have been helpful in my learning process.
What’s been your biggest challenge with pizza dough and how did you solve it?
Our biggest challenge with our dough was controlling the temperature and finding out exactly when it hits “peak time”. Luckily four years ago King Umbertos invested in some new equipment, including a temp-controlled dough room.
As a next-generation pizza maker, what have you been able to bring to King Umberto’s pizza?
Luckily at King Umbertos I have some great partners who let me experiment with new products. I recently introduced an award-winning gluten free Sicilian-style pizza which took home first place in the 2018 Caputo Cup. And as mentioned before, a Roman-style pizza which took home second place in the 2019 Caputo Cup. These new products have helped increase sales. Also having grown up during the Facebook/Instagram era I think I have a good understanding how to use our social media and turn that into business. That has been a plus.