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Mobile pizzaiuolo Gianni Gallucci

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.”

(081pizzerianapoletana.com, info@081pizzerianapoletana.com, 773-619-5174)

About Lou Carlozo

A former longtime staff writer, editor and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Lou Carlozo is a personal finance contributor to Reuters and the proud writer of Fra Noi’s Lou&A column, which spotlights important Italian Americans. He is currently studying for his master’s degree at National-Louis University, where he teaches journalism and writing on the graduate school level. He also writes for the Tribune Content Agency and a variety of other freelance outlets including DealNews, Money Under 30 and Yesware. He lives in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago with his wife of more than 17 years, Amy (a hospice chaplain), and two children.