Character description of the story:
Gianna Cerbone-Teoli is a Neapolitan-American chef who makes pastry, pasta and gelato. But what really sets her apart is the fact that she is a woman who makes pizza: a rarity in a world of pizza-slinging men.
Description of the story:
Gianna Cerbone-Teoli is the owner and head chef of Mandicatis Rustica, a Neapolitan restaurant on Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City. She has lived and cooked in the neighborhood all her life, developing what she calls “arms like a linebacker” from kneading dough, making homemade pasta and slinging pizzas. She says female pizzaristas are rare for a variety of reasons: crafting pies requires a great deal of upper body strength and focusing on a single task, something she says most women—more inclined to do ten things at once—generally don’t care about. But the real problem, she swears, is having breasts. Because women capture so much heat in that part of their bodies, hours in front of a hot pizza oven just aren’t most ladies’ idea of a pleasant career setting. But Gianna braves the heat, from both the oven and critics, crafting pies that target her few appreciative, discerning customers who know what a simple, hearty Neapolitan pie is all about.
Gianna Cerbone-Teoli: Pizzarista
Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, Manducatis Rustica, pizzarista, pizza, Long Island City, Italian, Neapolitan
I must've thrown the towel in on the pizza thing so many times. You know, pizza men that come in to work for you are so unbelievably arrogant that they think you know, they have to be making $2000 a week, they've got the hands of gold, I mean you're making pizza for Christ's sakes.
I not only bake. I do pastry, I do gelato. And I also do pizza which is very rare for a female to be doing pizza. Because women don't do pizza.
It's very difficult. Pizza is male-dominated because of the fact that you use your upper body, you've gotta have some killer arms to really work the wood, lift the wood, put the wood inside. My arms are able to handle it because since I was a little girl I've been making pasta, so my hands are really like, I have arms like a linebacker now. You know? They really are just all, you know, built on top because of the fact that I'm always making homemade, you know, pasta and doughs and doing different things in the kitchen.
But the biggest thing about this is that most people don't realize, is your boobs. Your boobs can't heat up. And most people won't talk about it because they're totally mortified. But the bottom line is the oven is so hot, and you, females we feel it in our breasts. And when you work in the oven, your breasts just go on fire.
I'm overconfident with my pizza. Because I've gotten to the point where oh ok, great, you're opening up another pizzeria across the street, another pizzeria down the block. There's another two pizzerias coming to town. Ok it's beautiful. I'm happy. The more the better.
I want someone, I don't want the line out the door, who thinks they know what pizza is. I want the two or three people that are gonna come here who actually understand Neapolitan pizza. And that's what I'm going for.
I moved to Queens just over a year ago, and ever since I landed I’ve been learning all I can about the food scene. This borough seems to get far less coverage and publicity on the food front than Manhattan and Brooklyn, but that only makes the exploration more fun. Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, just one stop into the borough on the 7 train, quickly became a favorite spot of mine. But I didn’t uncover Manducatis Rustica, a bit further down the street than most of the spots I frequent, until I came across an article on female “pizzaristas” in a summer 2012 article in Edible Queens. Gianna was featured prominently in an awesome photo that had her round pizza dough mid twirl in the air above her head. But the best part was a quote from her: “My boobs get on fire when I’m by that pizza oven.” She was so clearly full of energy and personality that I had to get her story on video. When the opportunity came, I jumped on it. She was a terrific sport and lots of fun. Best of all, she let me eat the two pies she made in my video.
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