Franco Pepe is to pizza what Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo are to football. His work at Pepe in Grani has now be recognised recognised by the Best Chef Awards who awarded him with the Best Chef Pizza price at the 2021 Best Chef Awards that took place in Amsterdam earlier this week.
This award highlights the key role the Italian pizzaiolo has had on the international scene. Franco Pepe is one of the most well-known and highly regarded pizzaiolos in the world. For generations, his family has been linked to the gastronomic world and to the art of making bread. But Franco reinvented himself and created a whole new approach, one that is visionary and unique, focusing on one of Italy’s most famous and iconic dishes: pizza. For the first time ever, a Pizzaiolo is being recognized for his work in the context of fine dining and haute cuisine.
“Receiving this award is extremely important to me. I’m so proud that my work is being recognized internationally alongside the world’s best chefs. Throughout my career, I have always searched for a dialogue and point of connection with haute cuisine, striving to reach that level of creativity and innovation. This is also the second time I’ve received an award in the Netherlands. The first time was in 2014, as a “Slow Cities” ambassador. I’m so grateful to the organizers of The Best Chef Awards for this honor, and I’ll continue to work to make sure that pizza and pizza making reach the highest levels in the culinary world,” Franco Pepe said.
At his restaurant, Pepe in Grani, located in an ancient 18th-century mansion in the small Italian village of Caiazzo (Caserta), the Pizzaiolo has managed to become a worldwide reference point for pizza lovers. His approach includes use of quality ingredients that are both seasonal and local, respecting the process of pizza making, and constant innovation that is rooted in tradition. As a result, the restaurant has become a sort of pilgrimage site for food lovers.
Pepe is also steeped in research as he focuses focuses on the recovery of local produce and ingredients, as well as the use and combination of different wheat varieties, in his mission to evolve from a place that is rooted in traditional flavours.
Franco Pepe represents the third generation of a family of breadmakers who have become the keepers of the Italian tradition. In 1938, his grandfather opened a bakery in Caiazzo (Caserta). Since that time, the traditional flavour has been passed along from generation to generation, even during the war. This has been maintained and driven forward by innovation through the figure of Franco Pepe, who is today one of the most important Master Pizzaiolos in the world.
Like his father, Stefano, Franco Pepe grew up in the family pizzeria, located on the Piazza Porta Vetere in Caiazzo, still in business today. The restaurant played a key role in his training and in his singular vision when it comes to pizza making. He considers the dough to be the main factor that ultimately sets a pizza apart.
In 2012, after gaining decades of experience alongside various generations of his family, the Master Pizzaiolo Franco Pepe decided to embark on a new project. The idea was to bring together traditional flavors with innovative techniques, inspiring a new approach to pizza that is groundbreaking and distinctive. Part of the establishment is dedicated to the restaurant, with its visible wood-fired pizza oven and several dining areas where guests have a live view of the goings-on in the kitchen where their pizza is being prepared.
You could say it is a pizza palace. The space is made up of various dining areas divided into two categories: “ordinary” and “experience”. The ordinary dining areas feature two interior rooms, a garden and a veranda. There are also three “experience” dining areas: “Gustarte” (a private room with a single table where guests can gather, which also features a photography exhibit), “Terrazza Belvedere” (an intimate space with views of the spectacular setting and the hills of Caiazzo), and the “Tasting Room” (an interior dining area for the true gourmet). The latter of these is dedicated to tasting tours, as the name implies.
Finally, there is also Authentica, a small pizzeria located within the restaurant itself, with a single crescent-shaped table around the pizza oven. This is Franco’s pizzeria, where eight people can enjoy the full experience of tasting, swapping stories and sharing emotions with the Master Pizzaiolo himself.
Pepe in Grani is a place where craftsmanship, research, training, innovation and a love for the land have always been essential – and continue to be. This is a lifelong project which has become a worldwide reference point over the years thanks to hard work and an innate drive to continue to improve each day. This is the obsession of Franco Pepe: to make a perfect dough which ultimately delivers the flavours of dell’Alto Casertano to the plate.