Opening a restaurant is not for the faint of heart, and it’s safe to say that Jordan Thomas had a more challenging route than most. Thomas, owner and chef of The Twisted Tomato in Delray Beach, Florida, is blind.
Ten years ago, Thomas was newly married and living in Northeastern Pennsylvania when he started getting headaches. As the headaches progressed, his vision started fading in and out. Finally, he finally lost his vision altogether. It turned out Thomas was suffering from a Non-Hodgkin lymphoma-induced tumor that had crushed his optic nerve and took his sight.
Thomas told WPTV that he spent time feeling sorry for himself after going blind, focusing on how unfair it all was. Then, one day, he was reminded of a dream he’d had since he was 13: He wanted to open up a restaurant. Not just any restaurant either—he wanted to bring Old Forge-style pizza, popular in his native part of Pennsylvania, to Florida.
“I’ll never forget it. Just one day, I just kind of had my breaking point,” Thomas told WPTV. “And I told my wife, I said, ‘We’re going.’” The couple packed up their lives and moved to Delray Beach, about an hour north of Miami. In spring 2023, the couple opened Twisted Tomato, an Old Forge-style pizzeria that is a testament to the Thomases’ hard work.
For those unfamiliar with the style, Old Forge pizza is said to have originated in the 1920’s at Ghigiarelli’s, outside of Scranton, in the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania. The pies are called “trays,” while a slice is referred to as a “cut.” Old Forge has two distinct types of pizza: red and white. The red variety is a rectangular pizza with a bread-like crust, a slightly sweet sauce and cheese cooked in a metal sheet, whereas the Double Crust White version is quite different: It’s a sauceless pizza, with both a top and bottom layer of crust. Sandwiched in the middle are the toppings—it is, effectively, a stuffed pizza without sauce.
The unique style of pizza has proven popular in Delray Beach. After a WPTV spot featuring Thomas’s story went viral, the Twisted Tomato saw a windfall of business. Suddenly, folks were calling from as far away as Texas to try a pie. The Twisted Tomato is now shipping online orders of its pies to all 50 states. Orders are sent with dry ice to ensure safe travel.
“After what I went through,” Thomas told WPTV in a follow-up story, “[and] what you guys did and airing that story, letting me tell it is the reason why we’re busy. And I’m grateful for that. And the people that come in, they’re very supportive, and they want to support that cause.”
Thomas has developed an impressive system so that he can prep every single pizza himself. Just like any cook would do, he preps his ingredients and arranges them in different sizes on a cold line. He memorizes where each is and the motions required to prep a perfectly balanced tray.
“I know exactly where they are, and I know exactly how much goes on, and I have this system where I put the pan in front, in a certain way, and I spin the pan, and I guide my hand to guide the line around the cheese,” Thomas told WPTV. “[With] the double white, I know how much, how many handfuls to put in. I know how many swipes across with pepper, how many swipes across with garlic salt.”
The rest of the Twisted Tomato operation is mostly a family affair. Thomas’s dad works the pizza oven, his mom waits tables, his wife, Adrienne, handles accounting and runs the takeout program, while the couple’s teenage daughter serves as a hostess. The Twisted Tomato does have additional staff, as well, and that includes Thomas’s latest hire: Drew Merritt, a man with visual impairment, who was being trained up on various tasks during WPTV’s latest visit to the restaurant.
“I’ve been treated really [well],” Merritt told WPTV. “Like royalty. You can’t beat it, man. You just can’t.”
Thomas said he hopes to hire more visually impaired employees. It’s just one of the many ways Thomas feels like he is paying his success forward—he also donates a dollar of every sale, split down the middle between the American Foundation of the Blind and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He said he hopes his story is inspiring not just to those who are visually impaired, but to everyone who reads about the Twisted Tomato.
“Take that trip,” Thomas said. “Take that jump. Take that ride. You know, because no one knows. Life is so up and down, like a roller coaster—that’s the best way to describe my life, like a roller coaster: up and down.”