Jay Jerrier Loves Italian Pizza, But He Just Can't Break Up With Pepperoni
"In Naples, a pizza maker is kinda like a rock star."
It's been a year since Jay Jerrier, co-owner of Campania in Southlake, fired up a mobile oven and took his show on the road. Now Cane Rosso gourmet pizza catering is one of the hottest tickets in town. As he gears up for the return of his popular pizza nights at Times Ten Cellars (while on the prowl for a brick-and-mortar location), we sat down for a little chat.
Jerrier might have a hard time narrowing down his favorite 80's hair band (RATT? Tesla? Crüe?), but when it comes to his pies, there's no room for debate. In other words, don't ask for one of those "freakin' Hawaiian pizzas." You've been warned...
On love at first bite: "We went to Italy for our honeymoon. ...I had grown up in the Northeast, and you know, they have that New York pizza...which everybody goes crazy over. ...It's good, but it's not great. So, everyone said, 'You're gonna hate the pizza in Italy.' We went over there, and Pizzeria Aurora in Sorrento was the very first place I had real Italian pizza, and I was like 'Oh my God! This is the best thing I've ever eaten!'"
On paying his dues: "[I] contracted with this local guy to basically install the oven in our back yard. ...I was making okay pizzas and a lot of really, really bad pizzas. ...Then, finally, through internet research I found a couple of websites that kind of pointed me in the right direction and I ended up with the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana. ...I went out for a week to Los Angeles and worked like 16 or 18 hours a day just making pizzas. After that, when I came back to my house, I was like 'Okay, now I get it.'"
On why his fans rock: "When people book me, they're booking me because they want [Neapolitan] pizza. It's not like they're going to say, 'Well, this isn't like a Pizza Hut cheese-in-the-crust.' ...I'm not stuck in a typical location, stuck up in the suburbs where people are looking for a $5 'Pizza Mia'. These are people that want fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes..."
On why he's burned out on the 'burbs: "Brio, which is a gross chain that serves most of their stuff out of bags, they sell more in alcohol--in just beer, wine and liquor--than we sell total. ...I think people are just more comfortable in chains in the suburbs."
On why he'll never sell out: "I don't want to have to cut corners on ingredients. I do everything myself. ...I crush all the tomatoes by hand. I make all the dough myself. I've been making mozzarella myself now, too." ...
But he's still evolving as an artist: "If I had any balls, I'd stop using pepperoni and use spicy Sopressata instead. But I'm gettin' there."
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