No matter how you slice it, this is an exciting moment for New York City restaurateur Donatella Arpaia. Doors opened this past week to her eponymously named pizzeria, Donatella, and Sunday starts her reprise run as a judge on the new season of The Next Iron Chef. “Donatella is my most personal project to date–it’s the first to carry my name. I wanted to create a rustic but glam environment and to use authentic ingredients,” says the attorney-turned-culinary-mogul and author of Donatella Cooks. “For some time I’ve wanted to go back to my roots, so I traveled to Naples and had in mind that I wanted to make the most authentic Neapolitan pizza possible.”
Donatella and her chefs traveled to Naples, where she spent summers in her youth, returning with tried-and-true artisanal techniques, ingredients (Caputo flour for the pies), and volcanic salt, sand and rock from Mount Vesuvius for the gilded wood-firing oven. It’s early, but her efforts are paying off with a big dose of attention to her plate-sized pies and antipasti (see for yourself at Zagat, Eater and Slice). “I didn’t really understand that other people are as obsessed with pizza as I am,” she says.