Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of journal entries that Sofia Arango, co-owner and co-founder of Atlanta Pizza Truck, and founder of Latinos en Pizza, wrote for PMQ. The journal entries recap a tour of Latin America, organized by Latinos en Pizza in conjunction with the Atlanta AVPN. If you have not read Part 1 and Part 2, we recommend that you do so first. Arango’s journey alongside her fellow travelers is rich with details about the countries they visited and the pizza being made in these select parts of Latin America. 

Bogotá es la ciudad de todos”


Mauricio & Palo de Agua.

Bogotá, Colombia (Jan. 23-Jan. 27)

Our journey to Bogotá began with a six-hour flight in economy class and a sleepless night. I can assure you that the nomadic life is not for everyone; it becomes exhausting going from airport to airport, constantly changing hotels, and repacking your luggage hoping the suitcase weight hasn’t exceeded the limit. The excitement of being in a new country also gradually fades, and you find yourself repeating the process, except you’ve turned on the autopilot switch.

However, a great antidote to “frequent-traveler syndrome” is when you encounter exceptional people along the way, ones who offer you their time and absolute hospitality. One such person was Giovanni Hernández, owner of Bon Giovanni Pizzeria, who not only offered to pick us up from the airport upon our arrival in Bogotá but also gave us the experience of an authentic Bogotá breakfast, where we tried “Changua” (a soup made with eggs, potatoes, and milk) and Colombian tamales.

Giovanni is a remarkable figure in Colombia’s pizza scene. He is the founder of the Professional Pizzaiolos School, and his efforts to create a network of Colombian professionals and provide opportunities in disadvantaged areas for them to venture into the pizza world are commendable. In addition to his social work, he stands out for his successful participation in various professional training courses, and for winning international awards. In his pizzerias, Giovanni includes non-traditional flavors that highlight his Colombian roots (by the way, we missed trying his famous pizza that is topped with mandarins—something for next time). Don’t hesitate to visit him if you’re in Bogotá.

Related: Atlanta Couple Converts Three-Wheeled Scooter into a Neopolitan-Style Pizza Truck

During our brief morning walk through the city, I could feel the impact of the altitude. Bogotá is situated at 8,660 ft above sea level, making it the third highest capital in Latin America (for reference, at 7,199 ft above sea level, Santa Fe, New Mexico is the U.S. Capital with the highest elevation). Additionally, the cultural diversity and the talent of skilled chefs are reflected in the city’s endless culinary offerings, where the gastronomic experience is enriched not only by the quality of the dishes but also by the attention to detail when it comes to the decoration of venues.

However, artisanal pizza is still not very popular in Colombia; few Neapolitan pizzerias caught our attention. One that did, however, was the Fortezza restaurant, which, using a fusion of local and imported products, manages to create a final product that stands out for its taste and quality. Carmine, the owner and creator of Fortezza, is Italian by birth. He told us that his dream had always been to create a restaurant where he could go to eat on Sunday afternoons with his family and friends, and that’s where his passion for cooking was born.

One of the limitations for the growth of artisanal pizza in the city is the scarcity of established Italian food distributing companies in the area. During a meeting with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, we had the opportunity to delve into this issue. We concluded that pizza’s struggle in the country will be to overcome the economic barrier and promote appreciation for the authenticity and excellence of Italian products in the local market. We are working hard to demonstrate that this investment leads to a significant improvement in quality, and we hope that our proposals for professional training will reach more and more people.

The class we hosted in Bogotá took place at Pizzardi Artigianale, which offers Neapolitan pizza in the T Zone of the city (known for its shopping centers and restaurants). Only one year since its opening, Pizzardi Artigianale has managed to conquer the hearts of diners to the point where it is normal to see a line at the entrance during peak hours. The pizzeria is also the first AVPN Certified Pizzeria in Bogotá. In this class, we were joined by the distinguished Venezuelan pizzaiolo José Ledezma, owner of Dopodomani Pizzeria and ambassador of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank our sponsors for this stop on the trip: Polselli, Agriconserva Rega, Latteria Sorrentina, Gi Metal.

Despite having hosted many traveling students throughout our journey, a day that stood out to us was the one with José Nogales, owner of Grassos Pizza in the small town of San Felipe, Yaracuy state, Venezuela. José made a bus trip that lasted more than two days to reach the city of Bogotá and attend our classes. His dedication and effort to participate in our activities were truly inspiring, demonstrating the commitment and passion that many entrepreneurs like him show to improve and learn more to build their pizza business.

After the class, Juan Pablo and Sara welcomed us in Cota, Cundinamarca, to show us their little venture, called Trattoria Portovecchio. It is a charming place located an hour from the capital, which they have been improving little by little as it grows. Also, thanks to them, we were able to enjoy an authentic Colombian lunch with meat, chorizo, blood sausage, corn arepa and ajiaco. We also tried a very interesting drink, a mixture of a beer with Colombian raspberry-like flavored soda. It was a tasting journey that we greatly appreciated.

The next day, we all fell ill: victims of seasonal flu. When we stopped to think about it, we realized we had had contact with more than 300 people in the classes, and making at least eight stops at different airports, it was only a matter of time before we got sick. Despite this, we decided to walk around downtown Bogotá and celebrate our 5,000 followers in the emblematic Plaza Bolívar of the city, also known as Plaza de las Palomas (due to the high volume of pigeons that frequent it).

To combat the flu, we comforted ourselves with a Hot Chocolate and an Aguapanela with cheese. However, soon it was time to leave. Despite our illness and a new sleepless night coming ahead caused by the sudden change in our travel itinerary by Copa Airlines, we prepared to continue our journey.

Costa Rica, we were almost there… Or not?

Welcome to Costa Rica, my friend, the tropical paradise”

Welcome to Costa Rica,

Henrietta el Musical, Los Ajenos, Marfil.

San José, Costa Rica (Jan. 27-Jan. 31)

Our journey to Costa Rica began with a series of setbacks. First, due to flight cancellations by Copa Airlines, our original itinerary was rescheduled. The new itinerary turned out to be an exhausting journey that even the most experienced travelers would have found challenging. We would depart for Houston, Texas, at midnight, only to arrive at 5 a.m. From there, our flight to Costa Rica was scheduled to depart at 8 a.m., arriving in the country at 1 p.m. the following day, just a day before our class.

Another sleepless flight wasn’t what we would have wished for, but it was necessary due to our commitment to our students. Additionally, we were leaving Colombia with our health deteriorated, as we had caught a cold halfway through the journey, from which we were just starting to recover.

The setbacks didn’t cease; the journey was uncomfortable, and we were completely sleep deprived. However, what I least expected upon arriving in Costa Rica was that due to a complicated issue related to my Venezuelan nationality and the extension of my U.S. residency, I would be denied entry to the country. And folks, that wasn’t all. I didn’t know it at that moment, but my torment was just beginning. The immigration officer, very kind despite the tragic circumstances, explained to me that I would be sent back to the United States, but the next flight didn’t depart until 8 a.m. the following day.

At that moment, I was convinced that someone had put the “evil eye” on me. We were at such an absurd point that a Latin American superstition didn’t seem out of place to wrap up the day. I just want to say that you don’t build an international organization with over 300 collaborators across a continent without making enemies, I guess. 

Making the decision to stay alone at the airport waiting for my return flight while Alessio continued with the journey wasn’t an easy one for me. It was an intimidating situation; I was alone in an unfamiliar country under the custody of airport immigration police, who didn’t leave me alone even to go to the bathroom, in a state of extreme exhaustion and with deteriorated health. But once again, I faced the decision to give everything for my project and sacrifice myself for the greater good, and that’s what I did.

I had plenty of time to reflect during those hours. I realized that life is often unfair, period. For example, I didn’t choose to be born in a country under dictatorship, yet I’ll be marked by the difficulties that my nationality carries forever. When I least expected it, when I thought I had finally left behind one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, such as living in Venezuela, I end up being deported from a Central American country with ultra-strict immigration policies, bordering on the absurd, that aim to stop the crisis of Venezuelan migrants crossing the territory. It’s a perhaps discouraging certainty, yes, but at least it’s something that keeps me anchored to reality outside the comforts that the first world and economic stability have provided me.

I must say, however, that my experience wasn’t all bad. I also received many messages of support from my community that filled my heart with love and hope. Additionally, the Costa Rican officials were kind and respectful of my situation; I could tell that they genuinely regretted that I was going through such a tough time, and they cared about my well-being during my stay at the airport, which eventually came to an end.

The journey back was torture; I didn’t know how much the pressure change on a plane could affect me when I had a cold and blocked nasal passages. At least I can say that I arrived safely at my destination in the United States, and my life returned to the path of tranquility and comfort to which I had become so accustomed during my time living there.

Putting it into perspective, my experience is still a privileged inconvenience. I think of migrants from around the world traversing uncharted paths for days, even weeks, risking their lives. All for the hope of a better future that may never come, but when one is in the most complete despair, it becomes at least a light at the end of the tunnel.

I can say that episode forever changed the course of my life. My determination only grew stronger because I know that together we can change the world.


On the other hand, life continued while I was in exile, so let’s talk a bit about the team’s experience in Costa Rica. These details were, of course, passed along to me by my husband, Alessio, and the team we’d assembled for the trip. 

After the temperate climate and altitude of Bogotá, the group finally returned to a tropical climate with high humidity. The day before the class, they headed to Taller de Pizza da Domenico for dough preparation, and then our host, Domenico Pippieri—Italian by birth but established in the country for over 20 years—took them on a tour of pizzerias in the city.

Costa Rica was the country with the second highest attendance on our tour, bringing together 52 students in just two classes organized by Reina Margot. Despite the overwhelming difficulties the team faced, with one member missing and a full room, we can proudly say that the experience concluded successfully, and we left with very good connections and interest for more projects in the country. 

Thanks to our sponsors for making this possible: Polselli, Latteria Sorrentina, Rega, Gi Metal and San Pellegrino.

We also noticed the presence of many notable figures both locally and internationally. In that class, we had a professional soccer player, a motorcycle racer, one or two TV presenters, and several influencers, all with a common love: pizza.

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by the reception the country gave us. The stay was short but productive, and we are eager to return and work on more projects that drive the growth of our community.

Costa Rica, I hope illogical Latin American bureaucracy doesn’t stop us next time. It’s not a “goodbye.” It’s a “see you later.”

En el Distrito Federal, cuantas sorpresas encontré”

Mi Distrito Federal,

Rigo Tovar.

Mexico City, Mexico (Jan. 31-Feb. 4)

Our narrator, Sofia Arango, on the tour’s final stop, in Mexico City.

Mexico City was the city of my historic comeback. By this point in the story, I hope it’s clear that I’m someone who never gives up, and that adversity only fuels my determination to achieve what I am set out to do. So, despite many suggesting I should step out of the trip after the tragic episode in Costa Rica, there I was, boarding the first flight of the morning on the last day of January, heading to the final destination of our tour.

I could have gone through a deportation process, spent 36 hours in the airport, had a fever of 100°F, and traveled and worked tirelessly for 32 days, but they weren’t going to get rid of me that easily.

Truth be told, I’m very happy I didn’t give up. Mexico City was an unforgettable experience of rich culture, history and diversity. The Mexican capital is truly a titan; it’s one of the most populous cities in the world, with more inhabitants per-square-foot than New York City. Although it’s difficult to experience the vastness of such a big city in just a few days, in this entry, we’ll try to cover our short and productive experience as best as possible. From the majestic pre-Hispanic monuments to the bustling streets of the Historic Center, every corner of the city gave us a new perspective and a wave of different emotions.

Mexican cuisine is known for its use of ingredients such as corn, chilies, avocado, tomatoes and aromatic herbs, which combine to create dishes full of flavor and color. Tacos, tamales, mole, pozole, enchiladas: these are just a few examples of Mexico’s iconic dishes that have conquered palates around the world.

In the Tex-Mex culture and cuisine, they also have their own version of pizza that I would like to introduce to those who don’t know it. It’s called pizza quesadilla, and it’s a delicious combination of the famous Mexican quesadilla and, you know, pizza. In place of the traditional pizza dough, a corn or flour tortilla is used as a base, which is filled with melted cheese, tomatoes, meat, beans, guacamole and other typical Mexican ingredients. I found myself wondering if this creation has its origins in the U.S. or not, as part of the Tex-Mex fusion familiar to so many Americans. Regardless, I thought it was a curious thing worth sharing.

During our free time, we had the opportunity to visit some national monuments, abundant in the city, such as Chapultepec Castle, Constitution Square, Chinatown, the Basilica of Guadalupe and the Pyramids of Teotihuacán. However, there’s a long list of places we missed that we hope to cover on a future visit.

The pizza-making class for this stop took place at the Quattro More restaurant and was organized by Joshua Serrano, a renowned pizza maker in the country for his career and performance. Fifteen students attended from all over the country. We also had the honor of the attendance of a delegation from the Italian Chamber of Commerce. With great pride, we can say we ended our day with great excitement, tasting the delicious pizzas made by our participants. To our sponsors, thank you as always for making this possible: Polselli, Latteria Sorrentina and Gi Metal.


With this entry, we concluded our adventures in Latin America in search of the Vera Pizza Napoletana. I couldn’t believe we had achieved it. One of the things that makes me most proud is to think that, despite the difficulties, we had completed each and every one of the scheduled classes without any setbacks. The expectations we had for this were met and surpassed thanks to the commitment and unwavering will that both us and our students, organizers, and sponsors had for the project.

I don’t want to be the person who unconsciously preaches that all dreams can be achieved with the power of effort, love, and friendship. It’s not like that. As I said before, I acknowledge that I started this project from a privileged position, with knowledge, skills, economic comfort, language proficiency and time and availability that most people don’t have. Still, it was an incredible challenge to put all this into action, and I don’t deny it, we were close to giving up many times. We cried, we laughed, but above all, we lived unforgettable moments while absorbing the unique essence of sharing and bringing together the entire Latin community and its love for pizza.

Building an international non-profit organization the size of Latinos En Pizza was not, and is still not, an easy task. Every day, you must wake up with the determination to change the world. I can say that we have grown exponentially in these last few months to the point where it’s hard to grasp all the opportunities that come our way daily. Although, sometimes, we also must face negatives from those who are skeptical of the project.

However, to be honest, there’s nothing that motivates me more than a bad day. I believe that’s one of the reasons why we have managed to get where we are and why we will go even further. I can’t force anyone to believe or share my vision, but I can show them that they were wrong when they decided not to believe in it. I choose to bet not only on myself but also on each of our talented Latino pizza makers who wake up every day with the dream of being the best version of themselves and showing the world the unmatched passion and love our community has for pizza.

We are many, an unstoppable avalanche that will revolutionize this industry like never before. But most importantly: If we are together, we are more (Si estamos juntos, somos más – our organization motto).

Food & Ingredients