Ep. 034 – Cary Kemp, Owner of Pizzeria 22

Ep. 034 – Cary Kemp, Owner of Pizzeria 22




This week’s guest is Cary Kemp, Owner of Pizzeria 22 in the Admiral District or West Seattle. Pizzeria 22 is West Seattle’s first Neapolitan style, wood-fired, thin crust pizzeria. Cary traveled to and lived in Naples, Italy for sometime, along with his friend and colleague, Mike MCConnell (of Seattle’s Cafe Vita fame) to learn and study how to make amazing Neapolitan pizza and bring it back to Seattle.


Highlights From This Episode:

Pizzeria 22 opened up in June of 2011 and was the first Neapolitan style wood-fired pizzeria in West Seattle. Cary’s restaurant background goes way back but he got his start in the pizza world, assisting a colleague of his, Michael McConnell (who also founded and owns Seattle’ iconic Cafe Vita coffee roosters/shops), starting Seattle’s famous Via Tribunali pizzeria. Mike asked Cary if he wanted to help him on his journey to bring Neapolitan style pizza to Seattle (at the time, there was no certified Neapolitan pizzerias on the West Coast). The traveled to Naples, Italy and lived there for a while, learning and studying the art of Neapolitan pizza making. Naples, Italy is the birthplace of pizza as we know it here in America (1889), specifically the margarita style pizza.
Cary got a job working at Sorbillo, a 3rd generation owned pizzeria in Naples, to be trained and learn how to make genuine Neapolitan pizza. Sorbillo was located on a street called “Via Tribunali”, which is where they got the name for what became the Seattle pizza chain.
To be a “Certified Neapolitan” pizzeria, there are a series of standards that need to be met, from the type of flour used, to limiting the ingredients in the dough to only flour, yeast, salt & water (nothing more), to the requirement of using a wood-fired pizza oven. It’s also required to use a different kind of yeast (fresh cold yeast) for the dough and a “cold rise” or “slow rise” process, which takes several days longer to proof. This proofing process makes the dough very delicate and it takes a specific skill-set to be able to work with it (it takes several months to become proficient, so they can’t just hire a pizza maker from a New York style pizzeria, like Pagliacci, to come over and be able to make Neapolitan style pizzas).

  • What do you love most about what you do? Being part of the community and being able to participate in community charity events like the annual Taste of West Seattle,happing May 25th, 2017 (Taste of West Seattle is a fundraiser event for the West Seattle Helpline – listen to WS Helpline’s Executive Director, Chris Langeler’s podcast interview on Episode 26)
  • What was most surprising or unexpected with opening your own business? Wasn’t expecting to be as busy right away, as they were… and credits the West Seattle Blog in helping build the interest and anticipation prior to Pizzeria 22’s opening.
  • What is your biggest challenge now? Staffing is the on-going challenge. It seems like these days, it’s hard just to get applicants to show up for their scheduled interviews. There is also so many restaurants out there that it can be difficult get and keep good employees.
  • What set’s you apart from other Neapolitan pizzeria’s in the area? Cary created his own menu that offers some less traditional toping options and doesn’t make the pizza as “wet” as most traditional Neapolitan pizzas are (doesn’t put on as much sauce and strains the fresh mozzarella to drain some of the water from it).
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? One of Cary’s mentors is Vince Mottola (who started and owns Pizzeria Pulcinella on Rainier Ave). Vince’s dad started the famous South End Vince’s Restaurants in 1957 (Burien, Federal Way and Renton). Cary helped Vince open Pizzeria Pulcinella and when Cary started Pizzeria 22, Vince told Cary that success in business “is not a sprint, it’s a marathon”… you have to make decisions based on the long term.
  • Parting Guidance – “It’s ok to send it back”. In the days of yelp and other online reviews… if you ever have a bad dinning experience, it’s way more helpful to raise the issue at the time and give the restaurant an opportunity to correct the issue. Rather then the increasingly more common method of posting a nasty review on multiple sites or smearing the businesses name online or starting a campaign against going to a restaurant without even letting the business know and giving them the chance to make it right.
It’s also worth noting that Pizzeria 22 expanded about two years ago and doubled their space by adding “Room 22”, a large private dinning space that fits 50 people. It can be reserved for local soccer banquets or whatever and used for private events and is also used as an overflow dinning on regular evenings. There is now plenty of space.

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Thanks for joining me again this week. If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode – email me at ChristianH@Sea-TownPodcast.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post. Thank you! And finally, please leave an honest review for The Sea-Town Podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show and I read each and every one of them.

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