From first-date pizza fires to canned tuna fish pizza, here are Boston chefs' most upsetting, disgusting, and just plain weird pizza horror stories. Happy Pizza Week 2014! (Got your own story to get off your chest? Drop us a line.)
Dave Werthman, Bar Manager at The Sinclair: "I worked at a pizza joint in Kansas City with a guy who probably should not have been handling food due to some health issues. A take-out order came back an hour later because the person found a bandaid, in her mouth. Still gives me nightmares."
Carla and Christine Pallotta, Co-Owner of Nebo: "Try opening a restaurant with pizza ovens that don't work for the first three months!"
Mike Keon, Co-Owner of OTTO: "Once, in my younger days, I was traveling with my friend Steve in Australia. We were shitfaced one night — and hungry. Steve grabbed a couple of uneaten slices of pizza that somebody left behind. We realized after a few bites that it was canned tuna fish on the pizza. It was disgusting."
Phil Frattaroli, Owner of Ducali: "The first week we were open, someone came in late to pick up a small cheese pizza a little before we closed. He walked out with the pizza, and a couple minutes later, he came back. I asked him what was wrong. He said the pizza was 'terrible,' and he wanted a refund. So I asked him what his favorite pizza was; he said 'Domino's.' I gave him his money back. To this day, it is the greatest affirmation that we would be doing something different here."
Dante de Magistris, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Restaurant dante and il Casale: "Not putting anyone down, but I would say 95% of the pizza that I end up eating late-night is not worth eating."
Will Gilson, Chef/Owner of Puritan & Co.: "When I took over Adrian's in Truro on the Cape for a summer, I had intended to do upscale Cape food in a place that was once known for its pizza and pasta. Vacationers are not really known for checking to see 'what's new' in the town where they spend their summers. After about a month of disgruntled guests, we caved and fired up the wood oven every night just for pizza. I have never made so many pizzas in my life."
Sal Lupoli, President and CEO of Salvatore's Restaurants and Sal's Pizza: "Roughly three years ago, I was driving on my way to a business meeting, and I got a call from Peter, my restaurant operations guy. He told me the pizza oven went out at our Chelmsford store, nobody could get it to work, and they were in the weeds. I turned the car around and headed to the store. When I got there, the store was 50 people deep, and tensions were a tad high to say the least.
I took off my suit jacket, got into the oven, and cleared and re-lit the pilot and got the oven up and running again. At this point my suit was covered in burnt flour and cornmeal, and I looked like a chimney sweep. An older lady asked me who I was, and I said, 'I am Sal Lupoli, ma'am. These are my places.' She looked me up and down and said, 'The owner? But you ruined your suit?' I looked at her and said 'That's ok, the oven paid for the suit.'"
Kosta Diamantopoulos, Co-Owner of All Star Pizza Bar and All Star Sandwich Bar: "I get a kick out of people that walk out of the restaurant with the pizza box under their arm as if they are carrying a book. I guess it doesn't dawn on them that carrying the pizza vertically might cause everything to slide off!! It happens more than you think."
Steve Bowman, Co-Owner of Fairsted Kitchen: "My first restaurant job was at a now closed Bertucci's in the Back Bay, first trapped in a basement with a giant mixer and a beat-up radio cranking out hundreds of pounds of dough, hour after hour, and then manning the blisteringly hot wood-fired ovens upstairs. But the horror stories really came on wood delivery days. Once a month, a dump truck would pull up to the restaurant at 6 a.m. and drop off massive piles of fuel for the ovens that had to be hauled by hand and stacked away before guests started to arrive.
So you'd find yourself on your hands and knees under the massive ovens, which had of course been lit hours ago, making the little space unbearably hot, stacking musty logs while dodging the array of rodents, spiders, and sometimes snakes that rode in with the wood from their formerly rural habitats. After seeing the true cost of pizza, I'm so happy to be able to swing into Area Four for one of Michael Leviton's awesomely blistered and bubbly wood-fired pies and pay in mere cash, not blood, sweat and tears."
Anthony DePinto, Co-Owner of MAST' (coming soon): "Being a tourist and not knowing where to get good pizza and it sucking really bad. Happened to me in Myrtle Beach."
James DiSabatino, Founder/CEO of Roxy's Grilled Cheese: "I made a pizza on a first date when I was maybe 19 or 20. I couldn't really cook, and neither could the girl. She covered the top of the pizza in olive oil, and it caught the oven on fire. Cambridge Fire Department came. No fatalities. Miraculously, we made it through two dates before parting ways as friends."
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