A call from the White House last week sent employees at Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Seattle scurrying to make a 40-pizza delivery to a visiting President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One.
Joe Fugere, founder and chief executive of four-unit Tutta Bella, and a small crew of company employees Friday manned a borrowed wood-fired pizza oven in the parking lot of Paine Field in Everett, Wash. Air Force One was parked there while the President made nearby appearances.
The decision to make the pizzas at the airport stemmed from Fugere’s concerns that the thin-crust pies would not be optimum for serving after a 30-minute trip by car from the Tutta Bella restaurant closest to the Everett airfield, he said.
Once cooked, the pizzas were loaded into the back of three Mini Cooper automobiles loaned by a local dealer and sent to the President’s flying command center.
“All the components just fell into place,” said Fugere, who had only gotten word that the President would be in town and appreciative of a taste of Tutta Bella on Wednesday evening.
Manufacturer Woodstone Ovens was quick to loan the oven, as was Seattle Mini Cooper, which provided the delivery vehicles, Fugere said. Additionally, the managers of Paine Field were generous in not only giving permission to set up the temporary kitchen in the parking lot, but in loaning the restaurant team the airport’s forklift to unload and move the 4,000-pound pizza oven.
Fugere had met with Obama in Seattle in 2009, when the president was seeking input from small business owners about how the government could help “main street” put people to work after Wall Street had nearly melted down and large banks were holding tight to the funding entrepreneurs and smaller firms needed to expand.
Later, Fugere was invited to the White House to watch Obama sign into law the Small Business Jobs Act that, among other things, raised the amount of money startups could seek under federal Small Business Administration loans.
Watch Fugere at the Small Business Jobs Act signing; story continues below
Tutta Bella executive chef Brian Gojdics created a pizza inspired by Obama’s reported love of spicy food, local specialty ingredients and Fugere’s family roots in the Calabria region of Italy.
The resulting Il Presidente pizza was topped with Calabrian chiles, Mama Lil’s pickled peppers, Isernio’s Italian sausage, extra virgin olive oil, mozzarella, basil and Grana Padano cheese.
Tutta Bella has made the Il Presidente pizza available to customers for $13.50 through Feb. 26.
Nation’s Restaurant News spoke with Fugere about the experience.
How did you find out that the President was coming and wanted a taste of Tutta Bella?
We were only given 48 hours notice. The news came from the White House.
The reason it was important was because at the White House, at the signing of the Small Business Jobs Act, the President stopped and pointed to me in the audience as an example of a small business that had benefitted from loans, and during that he said, “I still haven’t tasted the pizza, but he promises I’m going to get some at some point.”