We interviewed the entrepreneur Rocco Caridi, one of the owners of Lievito, the place in Reggio Calabria that defines a pizzeria. A real original format that has now become the flagship brand and franchise. A symbol of excellence, in the wake of Eataly, with hopes to bring the pizza recipe made in Calabria around the world.
We asked Rocco Caridi to tell us how the idea came about and what is the secret that allowed Lievito to become in a short time (in only a year and a half) a true brand.
The Idea came about itself – he replies – in a natural way. We started with the desire to create an original combination that tied the concept of pizza to artisanal beer.
Even the name is the continuation of a story: after “malt” (acceptance), the first place that we created based on the concept of artisanal beers, “Lievito”, is an innovative format that focuses on a new yeast mixture, made with the same transformation of artisanal beers system.
The common denominator of malt and yeast is life! Why do we not adopt these processes that de-naturalize the flavors, such as pasteurization with beers?
The secret of Lievito is in the pizza dough?
Partly. The yeast was created by us based on a starter made from a barrel of artisanal beer. It is a method borrowed from the natural bakery. This pre-mix gives the final compound its unique organoleptic properties. After creating the mother, we worked to find the workability point of this dough. Also in this case we are not talking about the leavening, but the maturation of the dough.
These are two very different processes: the rising relies on increasing the volume of the mixture derived from the fermenting action of the yeast; the maturation, by contrast, is a set of processes in which the more complex structures (such as starch proteins and fats), are progressively broken down into simpler elements.
In addition, the dough matures for 48 hours minimum in a temperature-controlled environment.
Can we talk about product innovation?
Let’s say that we have turned on its head the concept of pizza and the work of the pizza makers. In this trade, in order to create the dough you usually begin with water. Instead in this system of baking the dough, we begin with the flour and the dosage is essential. This means for our pizza chefs they must undergo a training period before they can actually be autonomous.
We were able to do this because Lievito is born and focuses on the application of experience and professionalism of each member respectively that of the baker, the brewmaster and restaurateur.
Lievito has proved almost immediately a winning format. Within four months, the pizzeria has gained visibility and recognition. After a short time, customers began asking whether we were a franchise … and from there the idea has matured slowly.
What is coming from Lievito?
Our concept is based on maximum simplicity, professionalism, product and service. We have created two real systems, one of “production”, setting up a regime and protecting our recipe mix of yeast and flour, and the other “service.” To this point, we have been working at the organizational level, equipping ourselves with an organizational model that provides a director and a manager for each department. We also wish to clarify that we focus on women. Even our director is a woman!
In addition, for us quality means customer satisfaction. For this we want, for example, that the waiting times are not long. Here we helped our management: by measuring the actual time, we were able to develop some guidelines that facilitate their work. For us, quality also means information: all of our staff are up to date and trained on the beers, the flour used for the pizzas and the ingredients we use.
The ingredients are essential for a good pizza! Did you do a search to individuate those you think best enhance the taste of the dough?
Definitely. Each product must have peculiar characteristics. For example, the mozzarella – both the fiordilatte and the bufalo – comes directly from an artisanal cheese maker in Salerno. Also, for the tomatoes, we do not use just any tomato sauce because we want to have the right degree of acidity. Our pizzas have to be identical in all the franchises that will open!
The only thing we regret in this regard is that, except for the cold cuts, we could not rely on our own territory for our ingredients. For example, a large concern is represented by the potato. We only use fresh potatoes, in particular those newling potatoes. Unfortunately, however, the production is not sufficient to guarantee us the product throughout the year.
While you were talking about maturity of pasta, you mentioned the importance of temperature. How important is it to the baking of the pizza? When you enter Lievito, your eye goes immediately to the oven. It is a special oven?
Cooking is crucial! That which you find at Lievito is an electric oven of stone … a wood oven does not allow one to maintain a constant temperature which is essential to our dough. Furthermore, this oven ensures there is speed in the quality, in terms of pizzas served.
In addition to pizza, what do they value the customers of Lievito?
Certainly craft beers and desserts.
Will you be able to bring all of this into franchising?
Yes. And not just speaking of pizza and beer (they will be branded by Lievito), but also of the individual ingredients and the pizza dough. In short, we want to do a concept store as an emblem of excellence, in the wake of what is Eataly is in Italy and in the world. Plus, of course, our “service system.”
When is the opening of the first franchise and where?
The first franchise will open in late March in Messina, in Piazza Duomo. We are renovating the site and at the same time we are training the team.
Lievito is a great team that values the concept of networking: managers acquire and update their skills and in turn, train the personnel. In turn, the personnel in turn, become trainers … in this way we guarantee competence, professionalism, responsibility and gratification.
Why did you choose Messina?
Due to the proximity … Messina allows us to monitor the good of the local trends and take action to fix the problems that can be identified.
Where would you like to arrive?
Surely, we are aiming to export the franchise abroad, but for now we want to start well with Messina. We’ve received many requests, but we feel we are still in the trial stage … so best to proceed in small steps!
Meanwhile, Messina is a window into a major market like Sicily. The next step for us is to open on Catania and Palermo. The contacts are not lacking: we are the exclusive artisanal Italian beer supplier and we supply our beer in many Sicilian locals.
Thinking of Lievito, what comes to mind …?
Surely the team. It is our true strength … the Lievito team is the ingredienttof our success. They are real champions, each with their own specificities. They have embraced the project and carry on every day with enthusiasm. Each small hurdle that we overcome becomes a commit to do even better!
It seems a trivial sentence, but honestly it works for us: the passion, the pleasure of working … makes a difference. This is the right spirit in which to carry on an activity.
We wish Rocco Caridi and his team success in growing franchise of “Lievito” both in Italy and abroad to raise awareness of Calabria of taste, food research and innovation in the restaurant world. Meanwhile, a small gem: it will soon be online the website for Lievito. Stay tuned!