Rosario Procino is an engineer who decided to bring Naples in New York starting with its amazing pizza. He is the co-owner of Ribalta, one of the best pizzerias in the United States.
Rosario, tell us about your life in Naples.
Life back home was great! I did Public Relations for several clubs to pay for my studies. I had such a great time, I am almost ashamed to call it a job. Then, at 26, I obtained a Master of Science in Telecommunications Engineering.
When and why did you decide to leave Italy?
I left Naples on December 10, 1998. I moved to NYC for love. I came here to join my then girlfriend and now wife and mother of two beautiful sons.
Was Kesté your first restaurant? Tell us about that experience.
Yes, it was my first restaurant. Since my very first day in New York I started missing pizza, Neapolitan pizza. I could not believe that nobody made it and I promised myself to do it one day. So, after a few years spent working in telecommunications and corporate sales, I decided that it was the right time. I planned it, raised the funds, hired the pizza-maker and made it happen. Wow ... An experience that went beyond any kind of expectations. Three years later, Neapolitan pizza became popular across the USA, and it was time for me to sell and move on toward my next challenge.
How are Ribalta’s pizza margherita and marinara, two traditional pies, different from the ones made in other Neapolitan pizzerias in New York?
First of all, they are made by a Neapolitan pizza-maker. Pasquale and I are both born and raised in Naples. We are born with pizza, we did not need to go to Naples and take a two-week class to learn how to make it: Neapolitans have pizza in their blood. Also, Ribalta is the only Neapolitan pizzeria in NYC that uses natural yeast. This allows for longer fermentation, therefore a much lighter dough.
What are your plans for the near future?
Your children were born here and you have been here for more than a decade: do you feel Italian American?
Let me answer you with a quote from Erri De Luca, a famous Neapolitan writer: I feel Italian, a little American but, above all, Neapolitan.
Are you planning to move back to Italy?
Not at the time. Naples is always at the center of my thoughts and inspirations. Right now, I am extremely happy in New York, I have a mission to accomplish here... I first need to "Neapolitanize" at least a corner of New York, and then I can think of moving back!