Mozzeria is a Neapolitan style pizzeria that has been producing world famous pizzas in San Francisco since December 2011. Pizza is such an important cultural institution, from its roots in Italy to the countless styles that have emerged out of cultural fusions all across the world. Mozzeria have firmly found their own place within this culture, standing out as a key spot within the bustling food scene of San Francisco. I came across Mozzeria—which is owned by Russ and Melody Stein—on ‘The Pizza Show’, a series of the Munchies Youtube channel, which is hosted by Frank Pinello.
For those that don’t know, aside from running his own pizza empire, Frank visits different pizzerias across the world to learn about different styles and cultures, and how it all feeds into the pizza world. Frank only visits the very best, and in his ‘Bay Area’ episode, Frank makes sure that he drops into Mozzeira to meet the minds behind one of the best Neapolitan-style pizzas on the West Coast. As always, you’re left with an intense pizza craving as you watch Frank try yet another mouthwatering pizza, however when he visited Mozzeira, it was clear that their message went beyond pizza, raising some important issues that I hadn’t previously put much thought to. Mozzeria owners Russ and Melody are both deaf and have built their restaurant not only to make delicious pizza, but to change perceptions about people that are deaf, whilst also providing employment opportunities for them too.
Russ and Melody want to help address the 70 percent unemployment and underemployment rate that exists among deaf Americans. Since the opening of the restaurant in 2011, the couple have always aimed to fulfil their vision of employing staff that would communicate primarily in a visual medium, which meant hiring not only deaf staff, but also hiring hearing staff who knew ASL. Over time, Mozzeria has transitioned to an exclusively all-deaf staff base, as they believe that it is important to extend opportunities to deaf people who would otherwise experience obstacles in training and employment.
The only thing that deaf people cannot do is hear, so it is not fair to assume that someone is incapable of every type of employment just because they’re deaf. Adjustments and systems would have to be established to adapt to having deaf people within the workplace, but Russ and Melody are confident that this is achievable, because ultimately, they are a working and thriving model of this in action.
Mozzeria have built an important relationship with Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), becoming the first business partner of its Social Venture Fund, a multi-million dollar fund created by CSD in 2017 to help address the unemployment and underemployment rate among deaf Americans. This will help Mozzeria to expand into the first ever deaf-owned franchise, with the CSD fund helping to bring resource support, as well as develop training materials in ASL. Through training videos, Mozzeria will be able to share the business and operations model that they have developed in their San Francisco location.
Russ and Melody envision that each Mozzeria location will become a hub of opportunity for deaf people across the restaurant industry, whether that be at ownership level, management level or for people that wish to become skilled in making food or waiting on customers. It’s also important that hearing people have the opportunity to experience Mozzeria or a similar kind of place because it really does have the power to change how we perceive and interact with deaf people. Also everyone loves pizza so its a no-brainer to stop by Mozzeria if you get the chance.
They currently have stores in San Francisco and Austin, and hopefully soon to be many more, so that people all across the US can enjoy some beautiful pizza, that carries an equally beautiful message.