Jeff Kies and Bruce Rahe, the men behind Perrysburg’s 5th Street Pub, are two of the 35 people in the United States who have been certified to make authentic Neapolitan pizzas.
The two were trained in New York by Roberto Caporuscio, who owns Keste Pizzeria. The eatery specializes in pizzas as they were made in Italy 150 years ago. Kies and Rahe own 5th Street Pub with Kies’ wife Melissa.
“It’s a real art form, this kind of pizza; it’s unchanged for 150 years,” Kies said. “We literally made hundreds of pizzas every day that just went in the trash.”
The pizzas consist of three ingredients — tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves — which together represent the Italian flag. The difference is in the details, Kies said. There is less yeast in the dough and nothing is added to the tomato sauce. There are also specific ways to lay the toppings and stretch the dough.
Wood-burning ovens cook these pizzas at 1,000 degrees in 90 seconds, but Kies said it takes skill to not burn them when making a few at a time.
During their training, New York was struck by Hurricane Sandy, which Kies said “hit the brakes” on the process.
“There [were] no cars on the road, it was almost like a zombie movie, just thousands and thousands of people walking, trying to find a place to stay,” Kies said.
Bruce Rahe, left, and Jeff Kies of 5th Street Pub in Perrysburg.
Keste was not damaged in the storm, but because police were evacuating the area, the pizza students walked 53 blocks north to Don Antonio (another restaurant owned by Caporuscio) to continue training.
“They didn’t have any power either, but the wonderful thing about this particular kind of pizza is the dough does not require refrigeration … and the oven requires wood to burn,” Kies said. “So when we got to Don Antonio’s in the middle of Hurricane Sandy, we were still able to, basically by candlelight and the light of the fire in the oven, continue to practice making pizzas.”
Kies said it was a “crazy, awesome” experience.
“It’s kind of a rare opportunity to have somebody as well-known as him and as tuned in to this style of pizza to pass down these generations of knowledge,” Kies said.
After their training, Kies and Rahe received a certification to make the authentic pizzas and are not allowed to make them any other way. They are subject to unannounced inspections by Caporuscio in the future.
“These Italians, they are hardcore about their pizza,” Kies said. “It is a religion to them.”
Kies said he looks at pizza differently since going through the training.
“I don’t ever want to down American pizza because that’s not what we’re about,” Kies said.
Kies said the pizza they sell at 5th Street is more about the palate and flavor.
“I look at pizza with a whole new respect because there’s a history to it that I never knew about,” Kies said. “I call it an adult pizza. It’s the kind of pizza you go out for. I’d say 95 percent of [the toppings] are all imported from Naples.”
Upon walking in the door, the first thing guests see is the wood-burning oven. The pizzas are a huge part of their menu right now, Kies said. They cost between $10 and $16.
“I tell people, ‘The pizzas are great but the meatballs are the best damn things on the menu,’” Kies said. “I haven’t let anybody down yet, as far as I know.”
Thought up by Rahe, the meatballs are sautéed to order and made in wine-based sauces. They are served four different ways and range in price from $6.50 to $7.50.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, these meatballs take over the pizzas,”
The pub opened two weeks ago and is located on 105 W. 5th St., Perrysburg. The restaurant is open 3 p.m. to midnight Sunday-Friday and 11:30 a.m. to midnight Saturdays.. For more information, visit facebook.com/5thStreetPub.