The Truck Stops Here
By John Cappelletti | Photography by Briana Brough
My fondest food memory is my great-aunt Clotilda, who would make the pilgrimage from Florida every summer when I was a kid. Being part of a large Italian family, food was central to everything that we did and [every occasion we would] gather around a plate of food. At the time she was in her 80s, and she was quite a lady. She would make pasta or bread or pizza. After she was done, she would pick zucchini flowers and look for the dandelions to pull the green leaves. She was way ahead of her time – fried zucchini flowers in the ’70s! – and she was onto things that would later come to be very trendy. And it’s funny, you don’t realize how things come back to you later down the road in life – the smell of the flour mixing with water, the smell of eggs and pasta, the fresh pasta being made.
I grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, which had [something like] the second highest Italian immigrant population in the Northeast through the ’80s. And so with that came all of the great food – and just a stone’s throw away from New Haven-style pizza. I really fell in love with the coal-fired pizzas – the flavor, the style. For years, we’d go once a week to get pizza and a beer or two at a place called Richter’s. We got hooked on the pizza, so when we came down here [to North Carolina in 1994], having it was a necessity. I did a lot of reading and taught myself everything I could about making pizza, including crazy stuff like putting the oven in cleaning mode [so the temperature would hit 900 degrees F]. We’d have pizza dinner parties on Sunday nights and we got pretty good at it. People started saying, ‘Oh, you gotta do this, you gotta do this.’
I found this mobile wood-fired pizza oven on a trailer, and I was like, ‘Yeah, we could do that.’ I left my job in 2010, and in 2011, we [started] Capp’s Apizza, which was the mobile food unit. We worked farmers markets, music festivals and neighborhoods including Briar Chapel, The Preserve and Fearrington Village. A lot of people from up North move to Fearrington and they were all like, ‘Oh my God, it’s just like New York pizza, or just like Connecticut.’ We were very fortunate to have that exposure … one thing led to another and here we are [with a brick and mortar]. Capp’s Pizzeria opened the third week of October . Somebody got on Nextdoor and told Briar Chapel that we were open. We had a line down the sidewalk and a packed restaurant for three hours. It was insane, and it was quite an intro to the restaurant world [on the owning side of the business].
[Over the years] my wife, Wendy, and I have worked in a lot of restaurants – that’s how we kind of met. Wendy and I had actually gone to grammar school together, and I’d always say, ‘That MacDermid girl, she’s cute.’ I did a lot of [hospitality] work – bartending jobs, catering jobs, worked in kitchens. Then when we were catering at Westside Lobster House [in Waterbury] after college, Wendy was there on the crew on the first day. We started hanging out together, and we had a lot of the same interests.
Getting into the restaurant business is kind of nuts. It’s a lot of hours, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also been very rewarding. That’s the connection that I never really made between my Aunt Clotilda and food and comfort. It’s a really great feeling to put a plate of food in front of somebody, have them enjoy it and say, ‘That was fantastic.’ And I think that’s the reward. That’s music to my ears, that means I’m doing my job and they get it.
– as told to Jessica Stringer CM
Read the original article from the December/January 2018 Issue:
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