The family-run business has reclaimed its title as South Africa’s best pizza restaurant in the Porcupine Ridge Pizzeria Challenge in the same month that it proudly celebrates its 40th year of trading.
The Johannesburg restaurant, an old favourite that has stood the test of time, won the inaugural competition two years ago, but was knocked from top spot last year by Cape Town-based Ferdinando’s Pizza, so was more determined than ever to take the top prize in its ruby anniversary month.
Owner Gino Mazza was delighted with the victory: “We were overjoyed to hear the news of our winning again this year! It was a tough competition with so many restaurants participating. We are so proud to hold up the gold plaque once again and to celebrate the victory with our customers and staff.”
Although Gino’s – which opened its doors on November 1, 1983 – was the brainchild of eldest son Gino, the entire family, from father Guiseppe (Babbo) to mom Antonia as well as sisters Carmela and Maria and youngest brother, Domenico (Dom), were drawn into the business in true Italian style.
Today there are two family-run restaurants. The original Gino’s still remains in the heart of Robertsham and is run by Mazza, his sister Carmela and daughter Giulietta. Other family members help out on weekends and school holidays and several of the first staff members are still loyal employees. Many original customers now visit with their children and grandchildren.
Babbo and Antonia have since retired and spend their time between their village of Monte San Giacomo, in the south of Italy, and South Africa.
The second Gino’s opened in Stellenbosch in 1996 with Dom in charge. This restaurant took third place in this year’s Porcupine Ridge Pizzeria Challenge.
Says Giulietta: “Our customers were very supportive throughout the competition and we felt their love and support throughout. They enjoyed the competitive spirit as much as we did. It’s had a positive impact on our business and reminds people that we are year and still going strong after 40 years. It is also a validation of what we do.”
Adds her father: “Our success is down to the fact that we provide great service and fantastic pizzas. We have not and will not change a thing, because our customers love the consistency and know what to expect when ordering a Gino’s pizza! Hearing customers say ‘it’s always the same, nothing ever changes,’ is a part of our brand.”
He says the establishment’s best seller and signature pizza is the Chiattona, “the one with everything, as customers affectionately call it.” They also have a signature oval shape which is a firm favourite with customers.
For him, a pizza has to have a good crust and quality cheese and ingredients. His personal favourite toppings are bacon, anchovies, olives and onions and he believes that anything that can be put on a slice of bread can be used as a pizza topping.