More than 230 operators entered to win a restaurant-quality Panini press at this year’s Pizza Expo booth. It was Burke’s way to showcase how its meats and fully cooked pizza toppings are premium time-savers across the menu.
“The new press will be used to make wonderful Panini,” said winner Matthew Caputo, manager with his brother Samuel, of Bell’ Italia Pizzeria in Phoenix, Arizona.
Caputo has inherited his father’s passion for cooking. He has plans to make his first fresh Panini with tomato, prosciutto, cheese and sweet peppers. Bell’ Italia already has a rich selection of sandwiches, salads, soups, nine specialty pizzas and 20 different toppings on its menu. The pizzeria and its catering division serve nearly 150 pizzas a day, most of them takeout.
Caputo’s father Mario worked in a restaurant in New Jersey, then owned his own in Connecticut. When the family moved to Arizona, they found there weren’t a lot of Italians, but “my father is a great cook—he’s earned the nickname ‘Pizza Man’— and because we made pizzas fresh and to-order, the restaurant thrived.”
Its success may also be due to Bell’ Italia’s welcoming, cozy European atmosphere. Children are given pizza crust dough and a miniature rolling pin to entertain themselves while waiting for their pizza. The pizzeria has had most of the same employees for nine years, and Matthew’s grandfather still works in the kitchen now and then, filling the air with his version of “My Way.”
Caputo says their customers like Bell’ Italia because “the food tastes amazing and it always tastes amazing, thanks to my dad’s culinary skills.” He also credits their one-of-a-kind crust recipe. He likes tradition, but also enjoys the trends that encourage unique recipes.
Although his parents have been attending for years, this was Caputo’s first visit to Pizza Expo. He said he liked having his wife at Pizza Expo because “she brings a new eye to the products I work around every day and that helps me get a handle on how ideas in the industry are evolving.”
The Caputos believe strongly in the entire dining experience. ”The food, the décor, the background music—everything plays a role,” says Matthew. “We want our customers to have a great meal, a special dining experience and know how much they’re appreciated.”
Now Bell’ Italia has grown to capacity, and the brothers and their family will be making decisions to help them find their way into the future. Should they expand? Should they open a bar? These are questions they’ll be considering in the months to come. And with current success under their belts, like their grandfather, they’ll do it well “Their Way.”
Burke would like to once again offer their congratulations to the Caputo family and is happy that, through this prize, we have had yet another opportunity to become acquainted with a family who cares so passionately about the quality and taste of their pizza.