Take Out Tuesday - Pizzeria Paradiso Interview
See our interview with Ruth, the Owner & Chef of Pizzeria Paradiso.
How did you end up in the food industry?
I learned to cook at my mother’s side, cooking for our large family and my mother’s catering company. Cooking is in my blood and it was a natural career for me. I cooked my way through college before entering the professional food scene in San Francisco in the early stages of the modern American food movement. In 1987, after graduating summa cum laude from Madeleine Kamman’s French Cooking School, and cooking professionally in French, American, and Italian restaurants across the country, I began cooking in Washington, DC. Four years later, I opened Pizzeria Paradiso, the first Neapolitan style pizza restaurant in the Washington area. Almost 30 years later, I help to operate the restaurant group’s four locations in collaboration with an incredibly competent and committed staff. It's been a crazy, fun, challenging ride that has allowed me to do things I never imagined like writing a book, Kitchen Workshop Pizza – Hands On Cooking Lessons for Making Amazing Pizza at Home, sitting on boards for local and national industry organizations, and supporting the food insecure of my community during this pandemic. From a grill cook at McDonald's as a teen to being named a semifinalist in the James Beard Awards in the category of Outstanding Restaurateur in 2019 and 2020, I wouldn't change a thing.
Tell us about why you have a location in Georgetown?
Georgetown has everything and is a core, vibrant neighborhood of Washington DC. It is home to residents, students, tourists and businesses and all of these groups love pizza. Georgetown, as the location for the first expansion of Pizzeria Paradiso in 2002, was simply a natural choice. Plus Georgetown is so full of such beauty and history, we wanted to be part of that.
3. What does hospitality mean to Pizzeria Paradiso?
Hospitality means welcoming customers as if they are our friends visiting our home. It means saying yes whenever possible and it means exceeding the expectations of our guests. The most common Pizzeria Paradiso customer comment after "this is great pizza", has always been "staff members are so happy". That's because of our attitude towards hospitality - each service is approached like throwing a party for your friends.
4. If you could do anything else, what would you do?
As a girl, I wanted to be an architect. I'm drawn to art and design. I do get a taste of this with Pizzeria Paradiso when we design and build new restaurants.
5. What’s your most memorable meal and why?
My spouse and I were on vacation in Vermont and we happened upon a restaurant in a small town. We decided to stop for dinner. It was completely unplanned - I can't even tell you where we were or the name of the restaurant. We sat at an outside table just above a rushing stream. The service was so welcoming and we had the best dish of gnocchi we'd ever tasted. The surprise, on top of the special spot, delicious food and warm service imprinted it in my memory forever