What started out as a young boy wanting to be just like his father has turned into a successful career for Vincenzo Pezzella. Growing up in Naples, Italy, he would go to his father’s restaurant and watch his father cook and do what he loves. Following in his father’s footsteps, Pezzella turned to cooking in his career, and now is a sought-after chef in his field. He has had quite a journey.
Pezzella’s first true taste of success came from working at Torre del Saracino in his home city of Naples. This restaurant is a staple of the city. It sits in one of the most famous streets in Naples and millions of tourists each year come by, eat and visit this world renown Neapolitan mecca.
“I wanted to work there for the name and what it brings with it. I wanted to see what a highly rated kitchen worked like. I was hoping to bring some of those lessons to France with me and maybe bring them further then just where I am now.”
Pezzella worked there as a line cook under the famous chef Gennaro Esposito. People would flock to the restaurant to have some of Esposito’s dishes, and it has a two Michelin star rating.
“This place was all about Gennaro. You worked with people, but there were like they did not exist. Gennaro is the entire kitchen when he is there and even when he is not,” described Pezzella. “And then being a line cook was interesting yet stressful. You are responsible for the starting jobs. You understand that even the earliest jobs require intense preparation and concentration.”
The restaurant was a very serious place according to Pezzella. Concentration and preparation was, and still is, a must. You have to understand who and why people were going there. The restaurant frequents Heads of State, presidents, athletes, musicians, and celebrities. Those who go there know there are going to experience the best, and to be seen at the same time.
“It was an awesome atmosphere. I liked everything about it. The culinary concept was my own, and right in my backyard. I could learn how to excel in a world class kitchen and bring forth what I knew and was being true to me,” he said. “I learned that preciseness can be achieved while still moving at an incredible speed. I learned that humbleness in the kitchen is granted with every dish that you make. I wish all students of the culinary arts could see what I saw in this restaurant.”
After his time working with Esposito at Torre del Saracino, Pezzella ventured to Paris to visit a family member, and stumbled across a trial for a restaurant that was opening. He didn’t plan on moving to Paris, but after being offered the job as sous chef for the restaurant chain Big Mamma’s new restaurant Ober Mamma, he didn’t look back.
“It was satisfying to me to show the people of Paris classic Italian foods and pizza. To bring the classic foods of Italy with the precise products to France was very heartwarming. It always makes me feel good to know we can bring Italy all over the world and allow anyone to enjoy the experience. To this point today, all of the restaurants in the chain do extremely well,” said Pezzella.
Pezzella’s pride in his heritage and sharing its food around the world is what makes him successful. Every dish has a purpose, and every bite is bringing some of Naples with him wherever he goes.
"Chef Vincenzo showed me that pizza needs to be seen as a meal, and not just pizza. If you treat it like a true dish, so will the customer," said Carmine Cinque, who worked alongside Pezzella at Ober Mamma.
Ober Mamma opened in June 2015, and Pezzella was promoted to head chef in December. In April of the following year, he left to work at the new Big Mamma restaurant in Paris, Mamma Prima Ristorante.
“I am proud to say that 50 per cent of this staff moved on with me from Ober to Mamma. I enjoyed learning from them and am building a solid team to continue with hopefully on many more openings of other restaurants,” said Pezzella.
Working with the restaurants in Frances’ Big Mamma chain further shaped Pezzella’s career. He began his career with perfection at Torre Del Saracino, but he found himself with the chain. Everything contributed to his learning experience, and now at Mamma Prima he can discover recipes and do what he loves: create.
“It’s passionate, but in reality, its stressful to be in charge of the menu and making new recipes. It brings out a large amount of self-consciousness about what you want and more importantly what your customers want, but it is a lot of fun,” he said.
There is no doubt that Pezzella’s unique blend of classic Italian with a modern touch will continue to make its way across various countries and into many more mouths.