SLICE OF LIFE
For Michael Cancio, the secrets to a thriving business are the same as a good pan of pizza’s: good quality and simplicity
“I’m in love. I’m having a relationship with my pizza,” Julia Roberts exclaimed after taking her first bite of pizza Napolitana at Da Michele from the movie Eat, Pray, Love.
Pizza doesn’t have to be over the top (or overly topped) according to the Italians. The traditional Napolitan Marinara pizza basically has five ingredients: bread, tomatoes, oregano, garlic, and olive oil. Simple and no-fuss. And this world-renowned pizza is what Michael Cancio introduced not only to Cebuanos but to all Filipinos when he opened La Nostra Pizzeria Napolitan, the only certified Napolitan pizzeria in the Philippines.
An entrepreneur and pizzaiolo (pizza maker), Cancio shares all his learnings from a three-month internship under three of the best pizzerias in Naples. “Pizza is a religion in Italy, not just Napoli,” he quips.
So far, how did the Cebuanos receive the Napolitan-style pizza?
Napolitan pizza is totally different from what we know. We grew up with Shakey’s and its thin crust and crispy pizzas. I’ve had people tell me our pizza is horrible.
Why? What’s the common complaint?
[That] it’s undercooked. But that’s only when I [had just] opened. I just had to take everything. [When] somebody tells me that my food sucks, I don’t get hurt because that’s their opinion; we don’t have the same taste. [You could say that] my food sucks but then, I probably won’t like the food you eat, too.
Would you consider that to be your biggest struggle so far?
That would be one of the biggest struggles, but actually, that was maybe for the first month or two [only]. Acceptance has been better than I had thought it would be. Filipinos like a lot of toppings, so first, I had to adjust. I [had to] put more sauce, more toppings, more cheese, more everything. It was not really Napolitan. It broke my heart to do that, but I [had to] do it to survive and just to get acceptance. But after a few months, I took it out and put back the Napolitan-style pizza, and it worked.
Are you training people to cook the pizza?
For now, I do all the cooking. The pizza is all me. As long as the pizza’s cooking, I’m there.
Are you open seven days a week?
No, we’re not open on Mondays because I have to rest. [I only open on Mondays] when I don’t have to work. It’s my first time in this business. It’s not only for the money; I want to serve pizza that’s good. That’s why I’m there every day.
What’s the most important thing about starting a business that you learned along the way?
To not want instant gratification. You got to log in the miles to get results in anything in life. And if others think it will work, they should just do it.