Turning Resilience Into Gelato The Pizza Nola Way

         When you think of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, what comes to mind?

         Flooding? Wind damage? Mold? Looting?

         There’s one business in Lakeview that thinks of… gelato.

         Pizza Nola, 141 W. Harrison Ave., is divining inspiration from the costliest natural disaster to ever hit the U.S. into creating a “Resilience Collection” of creamy cold delights including:

 

• Chocolate City – A harmonious blend of dark chocolate and white chocolate gelato interspersed with appropriately diversified robust ribbons of chocolate chips

• Toxic Soup – Tasty gummy critters swimming around a yummy caramel gelato sludge.

• Heckuva Job, Brownie – Brownies and nuts, enough said.

 

         When being bombarded with decade-old images of people suffering at the Superdome, you have to admit it’s nice to find a little scoop of sanity out there to lighten things up.

         Owner Will Samuels said the 3 limited-edition gelato flavors are made in-house and are available while they last, along with many other gelato and sorbetto flavors, exclusively at Pizza Nola.

         “For me, the 10th anniversary commemoration is the recognition of a difficult time for the City and the difficult time many people are still going through,” restaurateur Samuels said. “It’s been a long road for many. But, it’s also the opportunity to realize the blessings we have, and to be able to grow and take advantage of the challenges ahead that make us better people. It recognizes the spirit of the city, when 9 years and 11 months ago people were coming back energized and ready to rebuild. They weren’t going to take no for an answer. They were going to make the City great again.”

         Samuels is doing his part, one swipe from their gelato vetrina and one hand tossed pizza pie at a time.

         Samuels was one of the young entrepreneurs to bring Rotolo’s upstairs to The Blue Nile on Frenchman Street via a marketing arrangement with the Baton Rouge founders to use their name and ingredients. He then set up a French Quarter storefront at 201 Decatur St., but ended up unloading the corner pizzeria in favor of a gelato outpost in Old Metairie.

         It was at La Dolce Nola that Samuels and his wife Jennifer, who he met at the 2nd  Thursday After Hours event the Ogden Museum of Southern Art held after the Storm, found a sweeter destiny.

         Known for its gelato, candy, baked goods and chocolate covered everything, La Dolce Nola enabled Jennifer to shine as a baker and chef.

         But, when Samuels found a Lakeview pizza place for sale on Craig’s List in 2010 they decided to bite.

         The former Mrs. Pizza became Pizza Nola, and the turn-key business was soon voted one of the Top 10 Pizzerias in New Orleans by New Orleans Magazine.

         “Pizza Nola has a good customer base, clockwork regulars, and we value our relationships with our local customers, “Samuels said.

         The Samuels decided not to renew their lease at La Dolce Nola, and instead combined their confectionary concepts into Pizza Nola, selling their popular gelato and sorbetto flavors alongside their pizza, sandwiches, wings, salads, wraps, pasta and spinach and artichoke dip at their West Harrison digs.

         Jennifer stepped in again to create the recipes for Pizza Nola and to continue gelato making, King Cake baking, cake decorating, healthy meal catering, event coordinating and nutritional consulting.

         “We’re not trying to be Commander’s Palace,” Samuels said. “We offer excellent service and healthy breakfast, lunch and dinners, but we’re not a fine dining establishment. For our customers who don’t feel like putting their pants on, they can call us for delivery.”

         “We’re just a friendly neighborhood Mom and Pop restaurant where we know our customers’ names,” he said.

         With 10 employees and Jennifer’s culinary concepts, Pizza Nola makes practically everything in-house, 7 days a week – from the pizza dough to the sauces to the ground beef and turkey meatballs, all the sandwich breads, garlic knots, crostinis, salad dressings, jams, gelato and sorbetto.

         Serving New York-style hand-rolled and hand-tossed thin-crust pizzas, Samuels said their cheese slices would be his “stranded on a desert island” food of choice. Under the direction of Kitchen Manager Leonardo Garcia, who spent 16 years in Manhattan and Long Island, NY, pizzerias honing his skill as a master hand-tossed pizza maker, Pizza Nola dishes out red sauce, BBQ sauce, garlic infused olive oil and Alfredo sauce based specialty pizza and calzones,

         For dessert? Most customers go gaga over the gelato.

         “It’s healthier, “ Samuels said. “In Italy, gelato is a meal substitute. We make it with milk instead of cream, so there’s less butter fat, and it’s lighter. It’s much healthier than ice cream and less expensive than frozen yogurt, especially when you add all those unhealthy toppings.”

         There’s a steady rotation of 12 gelato flavors at Pizza Nola, plus 3 dairy-free sorbetto flavors infused with fruit straight from the Farmers Market. Selections have included Strawberry, Vanilla, Cookies and Cream, Cake Batter, Malted Milk Ball, Dulce De Leche, White Chocolate S'mores, Coffee, Mocha, Chocolate, Earth, and Caramel Toffee Fudge Swirl gelatos and Watermelon, Blueberry Basil and Peach sorbettos.

         Pizza Nola’s BAWK! Breakfast, starts at 7:00 a.m., Fridays through Sundays, including delivery, when Breakfast Chef Edwin Walton prepares Pizza Nola’s homemade Challah bread French toast and pancake batter, praline sauce, sausage gravy, pure maple syrup and freshly-squeezed orange juice and orange-carrot-ginger juice. Specialty breakfast items include BBQ shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, Nutella-stuffed French toast, homemade strawberry and pecan waffle and chicken and waffles.

         Samuels said while 75% of their business relies on carryout and delivery calls, they enjoy a small 800 square foot family friendly dine-in component. Their formula seems to be working because last week Pizza Nola brought in $50 short of their record month to date.

         “We’re doing amazing for August,” Samuels said. “And we’re on pace to have another record breaking month, not including when we sell King Cakes during Carnival.”

         Pizza Nola used to sell their own award-winning King Cakes from La Dolce Nola, but since January 5, 2015, they started to sell King Cakes from Dong Phuong bakery. Located in New Orleans East, Dong Phuong has been serving the dessert-loving community for more than 30 years. Pizza Nola is one of the very few places in the City where you can buy a Dong Phuong King Cake, made with light, flaky rich pastry dough with a scalloped outer edge and topped with a cream cheese icing instead of the powdered-sugar based frosting which is glopped on to most other area King Cakes.

         Samuels attributes the latest sales uptick to some large catering orders and steady deliveries to a nearby construction site. He also said because of the 30 or so new businesses that have sprung up along the West Harrison corridor, Pizza Nola has profited from diverse customer bases.

         “As long as no other pizza place come into the neighborhood, we welcome all the new businesses,” he said. “This area has become a destination area now, and every new business that opens bring us new customers.”

         “Be confident with what you have to offer,” Samuels’ business advice dictates. “And don’t be disappointed by setbacks. Instead, turn them into opportunities.”

         Samuels said promoting Pizza Nola though social media outlets has been a “tremendous” opportunity. They’ve been able to capitalize on their menu items by placing tidbits on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and Samuels regularly sends out press releases to announce new menu debuts and social shindigs, like their recent “Sharknado 3 Viewing Party and Costume Contest” that landed a mentioned in USA Today.

         “Our themed events bring new people into our restaurant, and our event announcements translate into free advertising, helping to keep our name out there,” he said.

         There have also been Gumbo viewing parties for the premiere of “NCIS: New Orleans,” and an event for watching “Ghost Shark” on the SyFy Channel.

         With about 1,000 Facebook fiends, Pizza Nola has sent out more than 9,100 tweets and boasts more than 2,700 Twitter followers. Not bad for a small Lakeview independent restaurant.

         Pizza Nola promotes $5.99 lunch specials Monday through Thursday, plus a Kids Eat Free special Kids Meal promo on Monday nights. There’s an After-School special for $1-off slices or gelato from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on weekdays, and if you follow Pizza Nola on Twitter and/ or Facebook, you’re bound to find out about some of their secret specials including a weekly password for $1 mimosas at breakfast.

         One week the password was “Mon Chi Chi.”

 

 

Pizza Nola
141 W. Harrison Ave.
New Orleans, LA  70124
(504) 872-0731
www.pizzanola.com

 

 

Categories: Leslie’s List