By Sofia Arango

Editor’s note: This is the second of two journal entries recapping the Latinos en Pizza and Atlanta AVPN trip to Latin America. The entries are written by Sofia Arango, co-founder and owner of Atlanta Pizza Truck. If you missed part one in the series, we suggest you go back and read it. You can do so here.

“Lima, tú, romántica y altiva, alegre y generosa, eres por ser hermosa la novia del Perú”

Lima de novia,

Mario Cavagnaro.

Lima, Peru (Jan. 14–Jan. 18)

As I wrote in a previous entry, I was not able to enter Ecuador with the rest of the group due to some visa-related issues. This meant that my time in Lima was longer than the rest of the group’s. 

Having that extra time in the city was very valuable to me, as Peru was one of the tour’s stops that I was truly looking forward to visiting. The city met my expectations—and then some. 

During my short stay, I fell in love with Lima. I remember going out to explore the streets of Miraflores and seeing people gathered, dancing cumbia in Kennedy Park while the sunset was setting down. It’s difficult to explain in words, but at that moment, I felt like the city was a living, pulsating entity that, with its rich culture, fascinating history and inextricable mysticism, had cast a love spell on me.

Related: Latino Pizzaioli Are the Stars of this Fast-Growing Instagram Account

I will now set aside my inclination for narrating everything with a touch of Latin American magical realism, and instead try to describe all the peculiarities of this very special city.

Lima stands out as the only capital city in Latin America that has beaches. However, its geographical location also means it is surrounded by desert: Rain is practically non-existent. These extreme conditions are emphasized by the lack of a drainage system in the city. 

Needless to say, the climate affected our pizza-making endeavors. The dryness and warmth during Peru’s summer dictated the percentages of salt and yeast we had to use for when preparing our dough. At this point, our pizza masters were already used to carrying out various experiments and tests until they found the perfect recipe for each country we visited, but each stop led to new challenges. 

Peruvian cuisine is acclaimed worldwide for its richness and diversity. Peruvian chefs are known for their ability to use a wide variety of spices in their dishes. Peruvians are also extremely patriotic about their food: Chefs always seem to lean toward including local flavors and ingredients in their menus.

One interesting piece of trivia about Peru that may not be known is that the tomato has its roots in Peru. This connection could explain why many restaurants told us that white pizzas—or those without tomato sauce—are not very popular there. These are things we learned from the wonderful pizzerias that welcomed us in Lima, including Flama, Amarcord and Vía Napoli. We can’t thank them enough for sharing their knowledge with us about the world of pizza in Lima.

The classes for this stop were held at a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of Miraflores in collaboration with Adrimpex. I must highlight that Gianfranco Espósito, the director of the company, is a detail-oriented and perfection-driven person like no other, and the quality of the promotional material, organization and service stood out for its excellence. To our sponsors, thank you also for making this possible: Polselli, Agriconserva Rega, Latteria Sorrentina, Gi Metal, Aperol and Acqua Panna.

Let’s now move onto the odyssey of getting a Neapolitan pizza oven into the small courtyard of a boutique hotel. This titanic effort took hours to complete and included a crane, disassembling a who-knows-how-many tons oven and at least six people trying to fit everything into place. However, nothing is impossible with the power of friendship, love, passion for pizzas and a few sips of Inca Kola to celebrate our victory.

But we still have another story to tell about this very special oven. It turns out that the next morning, Alessio Lacco—my husband, and co-founder and co-owner of Atlanta Pizza Truck–was the victim of a flameback that reached half of his body while trying to light this particular oven. It was undoubtedly a stressful situation that led me to leave in the middle of the class in search of a cream to relieve the burn (note for the next tour: bring a first aid kit with me). Don’t worry, Alessio is fine now and has no marks left. Most of his face was saved thanks to the twenty days he had gone without shaving. However, we do not recommend trying this at home.

After overcoming the logistical difficulties of an almost-catastrophe (at this point in the tour, I had obtained a graduate degree in solutions and crisis management), let me tell you about the structure of the pizza-making classes we conducted in Peru. 

We had arranged two classes in one day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with groups of 15 people in each. During the morning, we conducted the Pizza Maker for a Day Experience, in collaboration with the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), while in the afternoon, we had an advanced course on calzones and fried pizza (pizza fritta). The students came from various regions of the country, including remote locations in the jungle area. Additionally, we had the presence of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, the Italian Ambassador to Peru and the renowned chef, Ugo Plevisani.

Honestly, the day was extremely exhausting, but it was also one for which we held immense gratitude. Not every day do you have the privilege of eating pizza with an ambassador, do you? 

To culminate our visit to Peru, we had the opportunity to celebrate the ‘Vera Pizza Day’ at Flama pizzeria, with a 24-hour live connection to pizzerias associated with the AVPN around the world. The day ended with a party at night where we took the opportunity to say goodbye to friends and family.

The next day, we would be arriving in Santiago to start our next round of classes. As we closed each stop, we took stock of something. This trip had grown into something truly special. 

We were going all in, but more on that in the next stop.

Y pienso en Santiago, queriendo volver”

Santiago querido,

Leo Dan

Santiago, Chile (Jan. 18–Jan. 23) 

One of the complexities of Latin America—and this is something that many foreign companies often overlook—is the remarkable diversity among the countries that make up the region. We’re all Latinos, yes, but we’re not all the same. Latino identity is characterized by a wide range of languages, traditions, values, and business practices. For some reason, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Chile is how different it is from the other countries I visited on the tour.

Santiago is a city of majestic skyscrapers where modernity and technology blend seamlessly. And yet, empty streets and an almost deafening silence greeted us upon arrival (later, I would learn that this was because many residents leave the city during the summer).

I must admit that after 20 days immersed in the Latin American chaos, I was a bit set off by the order and the almost abject cleanliness I found there. This atmosphere was unique, and even eerily pleasant, but it created a paralyzing contradiction for me. Was I back in the United States, with its obsession with organization and efficiency? Or had I been teleported to Europe, with its meticulous attention to detail and aesthetics? No, I was in Santiago. 

For five days, I felt like I was on another planet. But at least it was a planet of pizza lovers. Chile was probably the place where we found the most passion surrounding pizza. Everyone we spoke with agreed that it’s a relatively new trend that took off during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been growing exponentially in recent years. On this occasion, we had the opportunity to visit three Neapolitan pizzerias that we recommend: Da Bruno, Brunapoli and Pizzería 400.

It was also in Chile where we had the largest turnout of students on the tour. This wouldn’t have been possible without our organizer, Javiera Contardo, director of @DouPizza, whose dream had always been to bring the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana to Latin America. However, that week we were not only making Javiera’s dream come true but also that of 75 passionate students traveling from all over the country, and even neighboring countries, to be part of our experience: “Pizza Maker for a Day.” 

(To our sponsors, thank you as always: Polselli, Latteria Sorrentina, Agriconserva Rega, Gi Metal and Famag Chile).

Regarding dough preparation, we admit that it took us a couple of days of trial and error to find the right recipe in Santiago. This was because summer in Santiago was quite hot, even hotter than in Lima. I remember that even with the air conditioners and fans running at full blast, the heat penetrated into your soul (maybe I’m being dramatic, but I’ve always been #TeamWinter).

On Friday, we had the pleasure of hosting the Italian Embassy in our afternoon class. So, for the second time in a week, I was eating pizza with an ambassador. Not bad when you consider that this project was less than a year old and we had ended up there almost by accident.

Until then, I hadn’t stopped to consider the seriousness that our project was taking on and how much my heart was filled with possibility. I have dreamed all my life of being able to change lives for the better with what I do. Actively working towards that dream is an overwhelming reality for me, which, believe it or not, I’m still trying to process at times.

In Santiago, I also celebrated my twenty-seventh birthday, amidst an exhaustive week of traveling, classes, meetings and inconvenient flights. I was in an unknown country, far from my family and friends, which wasn’t ideal, but I tried to make the best of it and appreciate that, despite the difficulties, I had a lot of people sending me love and good wishes.

Our last day in Santiago flew by. First, we paid a visit to our friends at Pizzario, renowned exponents of “pizza al taglio” in the city. Then, we met with the President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce (CCI), Luciano Marroquino, to discuss our project. 

In the afternoon, we received a visit from the CCI Secretary in our classes. We spent a few hours with our Monday afternoon students and then rushed off to attend other meetings and prepare our luggage, as we had to be at the airport at 3 a.m.

Five days in Santiago were not enough, especially when three of them were spent working tirelessly. We felt like we owed an apology to all the members of our community we didn’t have the opportunity to meet and to those we couldn’t say goodbye to. I hope that after reading more about our journey, they can understand us better.

I left Santiago with a strong desire to return and absorb the essence of the city, something that was left pending on this visit.

In the meantime, Chile: Until next time. I hope that on my next visit, you’ll give me the chance to get to know a version of you that isn’t overshadowed by the exhaustion of 12-hour workdays and sleepless nights at the airport. Don’t worry, I understand that the circumstances weren’t ideal this time, but we can give it another shot.

Let’s say, in the meantime, that we have a “pending love story.” 

Food & Ingredients