Don Antonio, located in New York City, is often credited with being one of the true pioneers in bringing Neapolitan pizza stateside. Opened in 2012 by Roberto Caporuscio and his mentor, Antonio Starita, the shop recently announced Caporuscio’s daughter, Giorgia, will take over the shop.

This is no act of nepotism: Giorgia has established herself as one of the most talented, hard-working young pizzaiolos in the country.

Among the brightest young female pizza makers in both her native Italy and adopted home of New York, Giorgia first studied under her father and then Starita before embarking on lengthy and intensive internships around Italy. She swiftly rose through the ranks, winning first place in the World Championship’s Classic Pizza Category, beating out 500 other competitors. Of the two women to have ever won the category, Giorgia is the youngest.

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Giorgia Caporuscio stands outside of Don Antonio restaurant holding a Neapolitan-style pizza, smiling.

Giorgia takes up the mantle of a pedigreed institution: Don Antonio is a descendent of Naples’ oldest pizzeria, Starita a Materdei, inaugurated in 1901 by Starita’s family. Immortalized in L’Oro di Napoli, a 1954 film that stars Sophia Loren as a pizza vendor (a prophetic foreshadowing of Caporuscio’s new role as Don Antonio proprietor) the business is still run by Antonio Starita, who is a third-generation pizzaiolo. Starita and his former pupil, pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio of Kestè fame, then teamed up to debut Don Antonio in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. Today, the pizzeria reigns as a bastion of Neapolitan tradition—and has become a beloved destination. Food critics have caught on, too: The restaurant appeared on 50 Top Pizza’s ranking of U.S. pizzerias last year.

Giorgia moved to the Big Apple at age 19, supporting her father first at Kestè and, eventually, at Don Antonio. By 2020, she was set to formally inherit Don Antonio—but what should have been a celebrated debut was stymied by the COVID pandemic. A partial closure and renovations followed. Finally—as of this year—the pizzeria is under Giorgia’s leadership.

“When I started this career 13 years ago, I’d often be the only woman in the kitchen or at events,” Giorgia said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d have a pizzeria in New York City. I strive to bring you to Naples, to Italy—while not forgetting we are the U.S.’s pizza capital and truly the best city in the world.”

Under Giorgia’s stewardship, the Don Antonio menu will remain unabashedly Neapolitan, with a particular emphasis on pizza fritta. While fried food has been part of Italy’s gastronomic tradition since the 1500s, it emerged as a vital staple of the Southern Italian diet throughout World War II. Scarce on fresh ingredients and workable ovens, locals began to deep-fry dough using out-of-season ingredients like broccoli, anchovies and artichoke stems. Women (as portrayed in L’Oro di Napoli) often hawked the pizza, giving rise to the expression, “la pizza fritta è donna,” or “fried pizza is woman.”

A spread on a table at a pizzeria: three pizzas, drinks, silverware are flanked by eager hands.

At Don Antonio, Giorgia elevates the humble street food, utilizing high-quality, made-in-Italy brands like Olitalia, Farina Caputo and Ciao il Pomodoro di Napoli. Her calling card, the Pizza Montanara, enjoys a quick dip in the deep-fryer before being adorned with tomato sauce, smoked buffalo mozzarella, and basil, then passes through the pizza oven to evaporate any remaining oil—giving way to a light, never greasy result.

“Making fried food is a kind of religious ritual in some Italian regions, and Campania is one of them,” Giorgia said. “The Montanara is the one I love the most: To me, it reaches perfection in a dish.”

An heirloom passed down from Giorgia’s grandmother, her Montanara recipe also comes in Genovese (beef and pork white ragu onion-based sauce and pecorino romano) and Al Tartufo (fresh mozzarella, truffle cream).

Other specialities include Calzone Fritto, a half-moon pocket of fried dough brimming with fresh ricotta, cherry tomatoes and salami, and the ricotta and broccoli rabe-stuffed Pizza Pianeta, finished with a generous scattering of ricotta, basil and cherry tomatoes.

All 7 pizze fritte on her menu are cooked with FRIENN oil, developed by Salerno’s “king of fried foods,” pizzaiolo Pasquale Torrente. 100% palm-oil free and infused with rosemary extract, the sunflower oil is also replete in antioxidants and vitamins. While New Yorkers are likely already familiar with pizza Napoletana, pizza fritta remains unknown to most Americans. Don Antonio sets itself apart as one of the only spots to offer genuine, hand-crafted pizza fritta.

In addition to pizza fritta, the Don Antonio menu boasts 45 types of Neapolitan pizza, all of which undergo a 48-hour fermentation. Pies bake in Don Antonio’s volcanic-soil, high-temperature wood-burning oven for a mere minute, resulting in an unabashedly thick yet light crust. Signatures span the gamut, including the Macellaio, a carnivorous pizza inspired by storied butcher Dario Cecchini (mozzarella, sausage, porchetta, salame Toscano, prosciutto di Parma, basil and EVOO), and the Pistacchio & Salsiccia (mozzarella, fresh pistachio pesto, sausage and basil), a recipe Giorgia describes as “a meld between my father and I.” All pizzas can also be made gluten-free, and are prepared in a separate area of the kitchen in their own oven.

Behind the bar is Giorgia’s partner in life and work, Matteo Bassani, who oversees the beverage program. While the wine selection stays faithful to Italy, beers favor both Italian and American makers. New to the cocktail menu are a series of amaro tasting flights conceptualized by Matteo.

A lemon-colored cocktail sits on a table inside of Don Antonio pizzeria in Manhattan.

Along with safeguarding Neapolitan pizza tradition, Giorgia also hopes to encourage other women to join the field. She currently serves as the ambassador of “Women in Pizza,” a movement that empowers women in the pizza industry.

“I want to inspire women to do this job on a professional level,” she said. “When I first started, pizza was 99% a man’s world. I understand the importance of sharing my experiences with women who are newly interested in this industry. They shouldn’t hesitate to make their mark.”

Don Antonio is located at 309 W 50th St.