Cliona & Piero, Pizza da Piero are no strangers to Blas and have collected awards for their handmade, stonebaked pizza bases a number of times since 2014. Before sharing their Meet the Maker we took a little look back through their own social channels as we were picking a photo to use with this piece and it was something really special to see not just Cliona and Piero but their girls with Dingle in the background (Lots of memories of Blas but also plenty of the aquarium and the Dingle seaside too!)
One we really had to share was an impromptu interview Gillian Nelis hosted back in 2017 in the Blas Backyard with the youngest of the Piero team!
At Blas the awards are based on blind tasting, our judges review solely on the food they are tasting, they don’t know who has made it or where it is coming from. This blind element is a key part of our judging to allow a level playing field for all. However, once the judging is done we love nothing more than learning all about the producers and we will be sharing this in our Meet the Maker Series, many of whom are family businesses just like Pizza da Piero
When & why did you start your business?
In 2006 and 2007 Piero had tried using sourdough starter methods for creating the most delicious pizza bases, for which, we realised, there was a large gap in the market.
As an artisan baker of bread growing up and training in bakeries in Italy, Piero knew how to work the sourdough starter to bring out the best flavours. All we needed to begin was the production space. While we were on honeymoon in Portugal in June 2007, we got a call that a small kitchen had come up at Spade Enterprise Centre and so he quit his day job and we began.
Who is your food inspiration?
The home cooking and baking that Piero grew up with in Treviso, Italy is probably what inspires him most. His mother was an amazingly talented cook, originally from Slovenia, so he has a great love of food from both cultures – the risottos and pastas as well as the goulash. She also baked plenty of sweet as well as savoury breads and Piero often brings home offcuts of dough and works them into more fresh bread at home, such as black olive focaccia or cinnamon and raisin bread rolls. Our girls are very happy to come home from school to these smells in the kitchen!
What do you love about your job?
Every day is different. Running your own small business means we are always pushing to improve, to grow and to create efficiencies. It allows for creativity and along the way you get to meet some of the most interesting people. It is certainly never boring!
What is your typical day?
Piero: I wake early in the night, usually about 1am, drive to the bakery, ensure the earlier tasks have been completed and the oven is on. We start the first mixes, combining starters with more flour, water and extra virgin olive oil to create the perfect pizza dough, I will check all the steps of the process to make sure that the pizzas coming through the oven are perfect.
I always check the starters for the following day and make sure they are bubbling in just the right way. By then our whole staff has arrived so I chat to our teams to make sure everyone is happy and ready to go. I check in with our office manager, signing any paperwork that may be needed. I usually come home mid-morning to sleep but often get a few calls or emails to respond to along the way. In the fternoon, I collect my kids from school and bring the dog for a walk before dinner. I’m usually asleep by 7 so that I can get up easily the next morning.
What was your best day since you started your business?
Possibly the day we were able to purchase our own premises in Rathcoole in 2014. This felt like a really exciting investment in our business and a stepping stone to being able to continue re-investing as we grew, which we have done, year after year. We believed in the strength of our product from day 1 and always knew re investment supports the growth of the business into the future.
Where do your ingredients come from?
Everything we use comes from Italy, from our extra virgjn olive oil, to our specialist flour and sea salt. Piero carefully chooses each one as he knows what is needed for our artisan product to be made to perfection.
Standing by our core values of using only quality ingredients, no artificial preservatives, sugars or flavourings has stood to us as our customers recognise our commitment to quality and authenticity.
Tell us about the people you work with?
We have built a really strong core team over the years who are not only reliable and trustworthy, but excited about our product and enjoy eating it regularly too!!
What 3 words would you use to describe yourself/your business?
Authentic, Italian, Artisan
What do you think is the key to success?
Never give up!
Has there been one single moment which has changed how you look at your business?
Our business exploded during the early months of covid in 2020. When we began in 2007 we felt that more and more Irish people had travelled to Italy and so knew what good pizza should taste like, and we thought that would help Irish people to recognise the quality of our product.
But now, especially since people were locked down in their homes during covid, more and more customers have a pizza oven in their back garden, an ooni on their table top, or a pizza stone in their oven. Irish people know that they can have an Italian pizza experience with their whole family in their homes.