My creativity in Paris

Gennaro Nasti explains how les Parisiens have fallen in love with pizza: no fear of innovation


Gennaro Nasti fell in love with pizza as a child, visiting historic pizzerias such as Da Michele and Trianon and, when he was little more than a scugnizzo, he began his career as pizzaiolo, first in Naples and then abroad. Born in 1975, he opened a restaurant in Barcelona, then flew to the United States where for 4 years he moved from Portland, to Seattle, Miami, New York, California, Boston, Chicago… One year and a half ago he arrived in Paris, where he found curious clients and a great respect for the pizza-chef profession. At the end of the month he’ll change location in Paris while he’s always looking for a place in town where he can open a restaurant of his own. And early in the summer he plans to open a new restaurant-pizzeria in Polignano a Mare to be called Sua Eccellenza.

The French, despite being used to a thin and crispy pizza, were enthusiastic in accepting to be guided in the discovery of the real Neapolitan pizza. Gennaro gives suggestions, he explains things. They listen, appreciate, come back and ask for Piennolo or Corbarino tomatoes: «Conveying our tradition to the clients is my greatest satisfaction».

It wasn’t easy – he explains – because knowledge of real pizza is (was) missing in Paris: «They are used to supermarket pizzas. Even the pizzerias in town have never worked seriously. So at first we had to fight a wall of diffidence. Yet today my best clients are true Parisians: people to whom I’ve explained how things work and keep coming back, and bring their friends too». It’s a fertile land, in France there’s food culture, «it was us, Italians, who were still, now we need to get our great tradition known».

Gennaro Nasti

Gennaro Nasti

Tradition, indeed, but creativity too, which here has more freedom to innovate, experiment on products and unusual pairings. For Nasti – no relations with Carmine Nasti of whom we wrote here – this comes natural «when you travel, you learn to dare. Pizza is in constant evolution. I squeeze San Marzano tomatoes with my hands, because I respect tradition but look at the future too. I also use caviar, foie gras or calamari for the topping. And I work on dough a lot: on top of the classic one, I make one with pumpkin, with hemp flour, a multi-cereal one, or one with 100% semolina». Chefs have long understood the importance of confronting themselves with other realities, while many pizza-chefs are still too anchored to their habits, they’re less open and curious, and this is an attitude Gennaro is against.

For sure, working abroad brings some difficulties too: in Paris, for instance, using wood ovens is prohibited due to soot. What should you do? «Doing without it is not a problem: I always say a good artist can also draw using earth. In the same way, a good pizza chef must know how to work even under different conditions. We need to do the best possible job with what we have. You don’t always need a Ferrari to win the race».

Yet Nasti has found a solution to the lack of wood oven in a sort of oven version of a Ferrari, that is to say Scugnizzo, an innovative electric oven of which we wrote here: «In ten years’ time, we’ll all use ovens like that: they have exceptional standards and can be installed everywhere, even in a children’s hospital. The problem is that many are afraid of avantgarde and don’t want to change. Instead, they should understand the future is here».

According to Nasti there mustn’t be any competition between pizza-chefs: «Instead of quarrelling over wood ovens, we should learn to collaborate with designers and engineers so as to conceive new ovens together». And we should also study, a lot: «Just like chefs, pizza-chefs also need to train, not only through field study but by reading books too, so the choices on dough, maturation, cooking can be informed and not a thoughtless, mechanical process».