By Brian Hernandez
In any industry, there is an era-defining changing of the guard, a passing of the torch—or, in the pizza biz, the peel—from one generation to the next. Vittoria Trupiano of Mangia e Bevi in Oceanside, California, one of the newest and youngest members of the U.S. Pizza Team (USPT), is one of these up-and-coming next-gen pizzaioli, ready to learn from the veterans while elevating the industry for the future. Balancing school, family and work, Trupiano took the time to talk with PMQ about the life of a young pizza maker today.
Brian Hernandez: How did you get started in pizza?
Vittoria Trupiano: I started working for my grandfather, Damiano Trupiano, at Dominic’s in Oceanside Harbor, but didn’t get started with pizza until my dad, [USPT member] Tore Trupiano, opened Mangia e Bevi in 2018, when I was 18 years old. I would just watch them make pizza, thought it looked easy enough, began making them for myself and, before I knew it, I was in Las Vegas at the International Pizza Expo in 2022. It was my first competition, and I took 4th place internationally in the Pan division, as well as first in that division for the Galbani Professionale Team.
Hernandez: Is it difficult to work with—or for—family?
Trupiano: Between my dad, grandfather, brother and sister all working in the restaurants, our work and personal lives are very integrated. But I genuinely love working with my family. Good things happen, bad things happen, and at the end of the day we can all go home and relax and talk about it. It’s a very nice form of bonding for my family.
Hernandez: With so many family members working at Mangia e Bevi, did you have to overcome the perception of nepotism?
Trupiano: Obviously, there was a little nepotism there. It’s a family restaurant. But my position was very much earned. When I opened the restaurant with my dad, I wasn’t even a server yet. I had no experience, really. I was actually a busser for the first couple of years that we were open. But as I learned wine and service, I became a server, learned pizza and worked my way up to a floor manager/head server position. Doing it that way helped me get everyone’s respect, because it was earned. I was respected because of my work ethic instead of my familial ties.
Hernandez: As a young person juggling work, school and life, do you have any advice for younger pizzaioli like yourself?
Trupiano: I would definitely master time management. As you start to understand your school and work schedules, find a routine that allows you to get it all done. Simple, I know, but there’s no better way to put it. There’s only 24 hours in a day, and you have to sleep at some point. Fit the rest in between that.
Hernandez: How do you manage the stress?
Trupiano: It’s important to find an outlet for your stress, something low-pressure that you enjoy and can do mindlessly. Just turn your brain off. For me, the slow times at the restaurant can do that for me. As it slows down, I can talk with my siblings. We can make pizzas. My brother and I like to play with ingredients and find new flavor combinations. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
Hernandez: What hurdles do young women starting out in the industry face right now?
Trupiano: Personally, I think one issue is the lack of representation of professional women in the culinary industry in general. Not that they aren’t out there, but there is the [stereotype] of, when you think of women, it’s in the home kitchen, and when you think of top chefs, it’s typically men. However, I have had a pretty unique and great experience with the industry so far. Everyone has been very kind and welcoming to me as I begin to grow my profile in pizza.
Hernandez: What benefits do you think young pizzaioli gain from pizza competitions?
Trupiano: They can start gaining that recognition in the pizza and culinary world at large. If they are looking to open their own pizzeria, I think already having titles under your belt would earn you some of that respect, especially for young women, and helps get your name out there. But even if you don’t win, you get the benefit of networking and learning new techniques that you can implement into your strategies and pizza making in the future. That only grows your ability to make better pizza and also make new friends.
Hernandez: What will you be watching in the industry moving forward?
Trupiano: As pizza making keeps progressing, there are a lot of new techniques to keep up on. As you mature in the industry, you can get set in your ways, but to progress, you do have to keep up on the contemporary techniques and ideas, while implementing your own creativity within them. I think that will be important for the future.
Brian Hernandez is PMQ’s test chef and U.S. Pizza Team coordinator.