I know this comes off as reporter-y, and I usually don’t write or update restaurant gossip from Florence- but Giovanni Santarpia leaving the pizzeria branded after him is worth giving y’all a heads up about.
In sum, Giovanni Santarpia is no longer spinning at Santarpia. What’s this pizzeria, you ask? Santarpia is a critically lauded, 3rd wave kind of pizzeria in Florence’s Sant’Ambrogio district originally helmed by Giovanni Santarpia, a revered pizzaiolo from Naples. But 3rd wave doesn’t quite do Giovanni’s pies justice- I’d say gourmet Neapolitan but the pizzas really reflected Giovanni’s imagination and memory of taste. It’s hard to classify the pizzas served here- which is why the news of Giovanni leaving, will leave a gapping hole in the identity and draw of Santarpia. The carb parties thrown here were distinctly Giovanni’s propriety and I’d be curious as to how those left will attempt to recreate them.
Santarpia is lucky as pie to have @santarpiagiovanni spinnin these treasures: yellow heirloom tomatoes w/ zucchine alla scapece (a mega historical preparation involving vinegar, garlic & oil- trust me it’s tasty) and the other ‘za umani bomb of anchovies, burrata 🤤, bottarga crumble and tangy af tomato 😍pizza, I’m more of a pastatarian but Giovanni got me 🍕#chowhound
Giovanni is a friend of mine, not besties, but definitely a friend. I met him through work circa 5 years ago, as I had assisted him as a translator for some pizza making lessons when we was working up in the Chianti hills at Palazzo Pretorio. When he was at Palazzo Pretorio, people made the trek to this middle of nowhere restaurant just for Giovanni’s pizzas. Ever since, I’ve been enthralled with his culinary approach, plus he has a crazy passion for craft beer and beer people are usually some of the sweetest kind. He’s an all around good person- and one who has very much soul and minimal ego. A rarity I consider in the food world. I could give many examples of why Giovanni is a gem, but the one which will always stick with me is when he helped me with a pretty important food story.
The example is that I had interviewed a pizza chef who remarked there aren’t many women pizza chefs because it’s simply not a job for women. If any of you know me personally, is that I took this as a high challenge to prove wrong. So I thought of a story about women pizza chefs (published HERE)– I asked around the grapevine looking women pizza chefs and of course it proved a bit of a mission. Basically, it wasn’t an easy task to get intel on other chefs for an article not about them, I suspect. I asked Giovanni and he went out of his way to put me in contact with not just one, but several women pizza chefs. For this, beyond his ethos for prime quality and loyalty to the art of pizza making, he has a permanent place in my pizza loving heart for respect.
So I wish Giovanni the best. He is not only a talented person in the kitchen, but he has a lot of soul and a heart of gold. He has amassed a considerable following and I wonder what this will mean for Santarpia left without the name built upon it. For those of you confused as to why the pizzeria is named after Giovanni but is not his- I’ll try to explain. From my understanding, a group of investors enlisted Giovanni to collaborate on the space and have his name attached to it. In Italy, it’s not easy to open up a place of your own, especially if you are a humble hard worker who didn’t come from extreme privilege.
People may not realize this but especially in Florence, the only ones who really survive and make it big are those who were lucky enough to inherit big bucks from their nonni or property which now means big bucks. I would be surprised if someone made it big because they had no help from family, worked since being a teen, scrimped and saved working hard for years. There are stories like that, like with My Sugar gelateria- but rags to riches is very rare in Italy for a multitude of reasons.
I’ve said this once and I’ll repeat myself- Italy is a challenging place whether you’re a worker or an entrepreneur. Taxes are disgustingly high, admin costs prohibitory and the time to get paperwork and navigate red tape? Well, let’s hope you’re sitting on some savings while you twiddle your thumbs while the numnuts in the public/commerce offices take their sweet time to handle your requests. I love Italy- so much- but I constantly come across Italians in America or abroad who left because they had it with these toughmudder-like games.
Anyways so Giovanni was basically working for other people. I’m not saying this is why he left, he told me he had personal reasons, but it’s just to shine light for those wondering “why would he leave his own pizzeria.” Well, it wasn’t his.
I’m not sure what Santarpia will do without Giovanni, what their pizza will be like and if they plan to re-brand (which I think they would be wise to do). But just know if you make a reservation at Santarpia, it won’t be Giovanni spinning at the oven.
What now? Giovanni hasn’t clued specifics on his future endeavors- but be sure to follow his facebook page for updates and news!
In your pizza trust,