After eating at Silvio’s Organic Pizza for nearly five years, I thought it might be nice to find out about the man who is responsible for the best tasting pizza in Ann Arbor. I explained to Silvio that I have a started a food blog and would like to feature a story about him. Silvio agreed to talk to me and tell me a bit about how he got started making pizzas and what motivates him to keep doing it.
Silvio was born in upstate New York, but his family returned to Italy when he was a young child. He grew up in Chieti, in the Abbruzo region, where his father owned a flour mill. In 1969, his father bought a bakery. Silvio worked in his father’s bakery while he was in high school and for several years after, during which time he developed recipes for pastries, cookies and other baked goods.
In 1997, Silvio decided to move his family to the United States. He lived in New Jersey before moving on to Michigan. He started making baked goods and pizza for his family and friends on a scale that resulted in him buying restaurant-grade equipment that he used at his own home. In 2005, he opened Silvio’s Organic Pizza. During our conversation Silvio said, “When I left Italy, my mind was on the bread business, but once I tried the pizza in the United States, I decided I should make pizza.”
Silvio showed me the original menu from the restaurant so I could compare it to the current one. The menu has grown from the original 15 choices to the current one that features closer to 30. One of the biggest differences between the two menus is the pastries and desserts. Silvio said that his wife started staying after the restaurant closed to bake the pastries and though he was reluctant at first, they proved to be a success.
Silvio said that every pizza on the menu has its own story. I asked him about my personal favorite, the Truffle. He said that his cheese supplier sent him a one pound block of smoked mozzarella. Silvio tasted it and determined that it would go well on a pizza with mushrooms. He had shitake mushrooms so he tried it with them. When it came out of the oven, he tasted it and thought that it needed a little something else. He added truffle oil and it became what you see on the menu today.
I told Silvio that I had two more questions, why did he decide to focus on making food using organic ingredients and why did he decide to open his restaurant in Ann Arbor. He said that he uses organic ingredients because he values health…ours, yours and the health of our planet. He said that the sauce and crusts of his pizzas are 100% organic and all the pizzas have at least 80% organic ingredients, toppings included. He also talked about the importance of obtaining the ingredients from local and sustainable sources. As for why he opened Silvio’s Organic Pizza in Ann Arbor, he said that he knew there was a large population of people who appreciated organic food here.
The one thing that Silvio told me that indicated why he does what he does was this quote, “We try to make the food as we were taught by our moms and grandmoms…Keep it simple.”
In a subsequent conversation, Silvio told me that he is adding a couple of new items to the menu. On Friday evenings, you will find porchetta that has been slow roasted all afternoon. Silvio will also be serving a new dessert that he has been dreaming of making since coming back to the United States from Italy. Bocconotti, a tart-like pastry made with a shortbread crust and a filling of chocolate, egg white, sugar, roasted almonds and a spiced liquor called alchermes. Silvio hadn’t been able to make these fabulous little pastries before now because he could not find a source for the alchermes. Recently, his wife found a recipe for the liquor while visiting relatives in upstate New York. Now that he has been able to make his own alchermes, he plans to make bocconotti a regular item on the dessert menu.
If you are hungry and in the vicinity of North University Avenue, do yourself a favor and stop in to Silvio’s Organic Pizza for the best tasting pizza in Ann Arbor.