Behind the Counter | Ep.4
From a natural disaster to the world pizza podium. The story of Pizzeria Simoncelli.
“Around 6:00 PM, the torrential rain started as people returned home from work but within a few hours, they started to become aware of the disaster that eventually resulted in ten deaths and four missing people.” So began the article published in La Repubblica on 16 September 2022 when torrential rains in the central Italian region of Le Marche caused flooding that resulted in extensive damage and loss of life.
Senigallia was one of the cities affected by this natural disaster and the starting point of our next Behind the Counter protagonist, Salvatore from Pizzeria Simoncelli. His story is one of unconditional love for this icon of Italian cuisine that, after three generations, has reached the top ranking in the Pizza World Cup 2022 just one month after the city’s floods left the pizzeria unusable for days.
Today we meet this vero napoletano, or real Napoletano, on the central bridge that crosses the river Misa towards Simoncelli square, finally arriving at the place where the dough happens. An urban but cosy space with a family atmosphere where we will taste their award-winning DOP (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta) pizza. Our mouths are watering!
What was the road to becoming a pizzaiolo?
“Mine is a family of pizzaioli napoletani –master pizza makers– and I am the third generation to keep the tradition alive, as my grandfather and my father did before me. I have always had it very clear, I wanted my life to be linked to this product because I am of the opinion that a good pizza is enough to make someone happy.
Five years ago, together with my partner Romino –who is like my brother after working together for so long– we decided to pursue a common dream and open a pizzeria here in Senigallia with both of us at the oven. We thought, why not? it’s a nice, cosy place and there’s also the sea.
In fact, speaking of partners, delivery companies such as Glovo have made it possible to expand and consolidate our business, allowing us to meet the demand for all the orders that come in. This job is dying little by little, the love for this profession is dying, so we need to keep innovating every day and adapt to new realities.”
More than 55 pizzas, an exercise of constant innovation ‘Made in Italy’
“Pizza doesn’t have a specific type of clientele but is enjoyed by everyone, and that’s why we believe it’s important that anyone coming here can find a pizza to suit their tastes. We have gourmet options –the latest to come out–, vegetarian ones, with meat or fish, as well as the classics such as margherita, bufalina, marinara or their aptly named DOP pizza. With the latter, based on San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, and small yellow tomatoes baked with garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil, we won second place in the Pizza World Cup 2022 last October out of more than 350 participants.
All our pizzas are made from regional Italian products, especially because for certain recipes we have to follow strict standards in the specification manual. For example, for the DOP pizza, all the products have to be from Campania, but then we also use products from different areas of the country such as gorgonzola from Lombardia, radicchio to make the Treviso pizza, speck from Alto Adige, we also make carbonara pizza with eggs, bacon, etc.
Basically, we try to keep up with the times by modifying a few things in the classics, because pizza also needs to be updated. We also enjoy taking recipes from chefs we like and applying them to pizza. Now, for example, we are experimenting with sweet pizzas, and so we visit the city’s patisseries to have them make us gianduia cream or we buy strawberries from the greengrocer. In short, we study combining ingredients to have as many options and novelties as possible.”
Gluten-free options as a hallmark
“The availability of gluten-free options is very important to us, as this type of pizza is very popular. In fact, in addition to being a member of the AIC (Italian Coeliac Association), we have developed our own brand of gluten-free pizza, called Fisaro.”
Glovo’s pizza consumption grew by 70% globally in the last 12 months. Specifically, the demand for gluten-free pizza increased by almost 20% globally and Italy appears in second position among all Glovo countries accounting for 31% of the total consumption of this version for coeliacs. In fact, gluten-free pizza delivered in the boot-shaped country has grown by 66% over the last 12 months.
How did you experience the floods of 15 September?
“Suddenly we found ourselves with 50 cm of water in the restaurant and we literally had to throw everything out, from the fridges to the tables. It was four days straight working day and night where friends and family helped us with everything. We really felt great support from the community.”
In fact, in the first moments of the flood, Salvatore said that he couldn’t believe that both the mayor of Senigallia himself and the people from Glovo came without hesitation to see what they needed. “We were touched to see the more human side of the company, how they approached us in person and cared about us, helping with the facilities, with digital advertising support or through zero service fees.” Just when Salvatore felt he had nowhere to turn, we are proud that we were able to immediately lend a hand and help his business get back on its feet through Glovo in a time of crisis.
“However, after this bitter feeling came a wonderful satisfaction. We had entered the Pizza World Cup 2022 and I thought we would not make it, because we were still working on getting the restaurant ready and reopening it, but in the end we came second. This gave us a big boost and we got more recognition and love in the city.”
Meeting Salvatore and how he overcame such a difficult time for his business brings us closer to another reality of Glovo’s partners. A place with a ‘Made in Italy’ flavour that, despite the adversities, has built its own path towards the recognition and affection of its community.