Co-owner and executive chef at Ribalta in New York, Chef Cozzolino is a renowned master pizza maker honored with a diploma as “Ambassador of Pizza Margherita” in the world (2010); the First Prize for the Fourth International Championship for "Neapolitan Pizza" (2005); and an Award of Excellence in making the traditional Margherita pizza sponsored by the Association of Neapolitan Pizza makers.
Pasquale, when did you decide to become a chef?
I was fourteen when I started cooking in a restaurant called Transatlantico, in the Borgo Marinari. The owner was a cousin of my mother, and he let me fool around in the kitchen. Then, in 1996, I had the chance to attend a workshop organized by VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana), directed by Dr. Pace from Ciro a Santa Brigida restaurant, in the Tourism School Ippolito Cavalcanti, the school I was attending, and where I graduated obtaining a culinary arts and hotel and restaurant administration diploma. Being a chef and a master pizza-maker are both important to me because they represent who I am, 100% Neapolitan. Deep in my heart, I knew I had to master the art of making pizza.
Do you feel Naples is appreciated overseas as it should?
I love my city to death, and in order to love it I had to know it in every detail. Naples is a unique stage where you find great actors, mediocre actors and the ones who truly cannot act. Lots of people try to focus on those, try to obscure Naples’ immense beauty but there are more people who see it and feel it.
When did you come to New York and why?
I visited New York in 2010 for a vacation. One year later, destiny struck: two investors were thinking of opening a restaurant Midtown, and they asked me if I wanted to move here. The restaurant became Pizzarte, I became the Executive Chef, designing the kitchen and the pizza-station. Pizzarte developed into one of the most important Neapolitan restaurant in the city, giving me the chance to dedicate some time to other personal projects. I love challenges.
Love, research, innovation that respects tradition, like natural leavening and the Mother Yeast that have accompanied me in the last exciting challenge called Ribalta.
What is your favorite pizza?
Salsiccia and Friarielli (at Ribalta) for sure; after that, Margherita.
What is your signature dish?
My Pumpkin Flowers with Zucchini Cream and Speck, a special at Ribalta.
Are you planning to move back to Italy?
No. During the past years I found love, a wonderful person and very soon we will have a baby-Cozzolino. I miss Naples, maybe I will move back in the future.