How to make it in the pizza world?
Find your passion. Read up on it. Bug every pizza maker you can for insight. Bake hundreds of pizzas. Then bake hundreds more. Wow your friends. Do a pop-up, followed by more pop-ups. Get catering gigs, where you show up with a Roccbox, maybe meet a brewer or two, and then set up at breweries to serve their customers. Build a huge Instagram following.
Then maybe ... maybe ... go the brick-and-mortar route with your own shop.
That rough scenario worked for local pizza gods like Joe Beddia (Pizzeria Beddia), Daniel Gutter (a.k.a. Pizza Gutt, now with Circles & Squares and Pizza Plus), and the Jersey Shore-based Mike Fitzick (a.k.a. Pizza Jew, now with Bakeria 1010 in Linwood).
David Lee and his wife, Ana, who vend as Pizza Jawn, were on their way to that last step when the coronavirus shut everything down. Nowadays, though, they’re still at it. Customers order and pay online well in advance, get a time slot, and show up at their suburban Philadelphia home, where the Lees set the boxed pizzas on a table, next to hand sanitizer, and watch the pickup through the front door.
David’s three high-tech Breville Pizzaiolo ovens put out round Neapolitan-New York hybrid pizzas; thicker-crusted, square Grandmas with sesame bottoms; and crispy-cheesy-edged Detroits. All come out beautifully well-done, but not burnt.
David Lee, who owns Manayunk CrossFit, credits Beddia for inspiration. Early on, Lee was buying frozen dough. A client introduced him to Beddia, at the time working out of his corner shop on Girard Avenue, and he booked a private event. Lee spent the event peppering Beddia with questions and actually working the dough with Beddia.
“The dough is the important thing,” says Lee, who devoured The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani and bought a Roccbox tabletop oven.
Then, he says, “I went down the rabbit hole. I spent any free time I had making pizzas, to the chagrin of my wife.” Ana Lee is a Realtor.
He took a three-day Pizza University class at the MarraForni factory in Beltsville, Md., and refined a dough recipe that mixes 00 flour and King Arthur and gets a 48-hour rise. He tops red pizzas with whole-milk mozzarella and Grana Padano cheese shaved off the block. White pies get a blend of mozz, provolone, and white cheddar. The Detroit’s crispy secret is a pepperjack and cheddar blend.
Pizza Jawn’s turning point came in October 2017, when David and the oven showed up at a Sunday football-watching party at Ana’s friend’s house. Among the guests was someone at Philadelphia Brewing Co. That led to a round of pop-ups at various breweries, including Bald Birds, and private parties.
“In the last nine to 12 months, we’ve really ramped up,” Ana Lee says. “We’re helping brewers, and they’re helping us. We’re finding that more often, people are coming to see us and they end up buying beer.”
As for the next step, the brick-and-mortar: “I really want to have everything perfect, and we don’t know what’s going to happen with the world,” David Lee said. “But if the right opportunity presented itself ...”