Pionieri Pizza – The marriage of flavours

Photo: Jill Okkers MASTER AT WORK: This photograph of Jeffrey Zaki was shot by Jill Okkers, aka Food By Jill, a well-known food blogger who helped promote Pilgrim's Pizza when it first started in 2015.

Co-owner and master pizzaiolo (the person who makes pizzas), Jeffrey Zaki spilled the beans on why he’s rebranding.

The 21-year-old student revealed that Pilgrim’s Pizza was born out of frustration. “I’m the type of person that constantly needs change,” Zaki stated.

The idea to start his own pizza shop came to him while he was working for a bakery in Sandton. “I needed to find what I could to try and grow myself as a person and get out of the spot I was in.”

So, Pilgrim’s Pizza, a home for authentic Neapolitan pizza in Jozi was born. Zaki revealed that although he’s not Italian (he’s Lebanese and of French origin), food is the foundation of his family. “I’ve constantly been surrounded by food from a young age. So that’s where [the passion] comes from.” In fact, his father, Teddy Zaki, was the runner-up on the Great South African Bake Off.

Since its debut at the Rosebank Sunday Market last year, Pilgrim’s has had success after success, selling out completely on the first day it opened at the Neighbourgoods Market and many times after. The pop-up store has even had visits from Joburg Foodie and Food By Jill, two very well-known food bloggers.

However, not long ago Zaki received a phone call from a company in England, which just happened to be called Pizza Pilgrims. “I went white in colour because it went from such a hype to hitting rock bottom. It was a complete 360,” he explained. Although the apostrophe in Pilgrim’s saves Zaki from any copyright issues, he said it was a little too close for comfort. “They are trying to help me. They’re friendly guys and they just want to see me grow because they’re in the same position as me.”

So from now on, Pilgrim’s Pizza will be known as Pionieri Pizza, which translates to Pioneers’ pizza, and is in keeping with Pilgrim’s original concept.

So, why should you try Zaki’s pizzas? Not only are the flavours incredible – think salami, mushroom and Romesco sauce on the Spaniard; and basil pesto, olive oil, feta, mushrooms and olives on the pizza Bianca – but Zaki adds a bit of flair to the whole experience.

“I think it’s because I throw the dough in the air. I think people are just drawn to that. Can I be honest? Prior to this, I couldn’t throw any dough in the air. I can’t even write my name properly. I have the worst handwriting, I’m not precise. So doing that, every time I catch the dough, I’m surprised. I say a little prayer in my head.”

Details: www.pionieripizzeria.com; @pionieri_pizzeria

Victoria Taylor

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