The announcement late last week came as a complete surprise to Justin Venturi.
Naturally, the 33-year-old Goshen restaurateur is familiar with Esquire magazine, but Venturi had no idea one of its bloggers recently asked readers to submit their choice of “most life-changing pizzeria in America.”
No one informed Venturi or his business partners at Venturi’s Pizza that they submitted the name of his business in the online poll.
And no one from Esquire phoned or e-mailed to let Venturi know that when the votes cast in this weeklong poll were tallied, his pizzeria made the list.
The pizzeria may only seat 40, but it has been receiving national attention since making the top 15. Venturi received 5 percent of the votes cast by Esquire readers across the country.
While we don’t know how many restaurants were vying for a spot on this coveted list, or how many votes were cast for Venturi, the Goshen pizzeria was listed among such well-known, independently owned restaurants as Chicago’s Lou Malnati’s (it topped the list), Gino’s East, and others from New York City to San Francisco.
That’s really something.
The “Eat like a Man” blog has also featured such online reader polls as life-changing subs, barbecue ribs, burger joints and fried chicken.
Venturi and his three business partners only found out about the contest last week after Esquire published the results online.
“We had no idea,” says Venturi, who remains quite modest about the recognition his little restaurant at 123 E. Lincoln Ave. is receiving.
But he beams when he’s asked to describe his Culinary Institute of America training that followed his education at Rutgers University, where he studied Italian literature.
Venturi describes falling in love with Italian food during his studies in Rome, and how he decided his restaurant would contain a wood-fire oven, and only that oven for cooking his menu items made from scratch.
His passion is obvious as he puts his hands into hot water to make homemade mozzarella for the pizzas he serves that day.
He opened Venturi in 2009 near the Davis Mercantile in Shipshewana and two years later relocated to downtown Goshen.
Venturi, who cooks with ingredients either imported from Italy or largely grown locally, details a painstaking process of trial and error in creating the recipe for his Neapolitan pizza.
“I’d throw little bits of dough in different places in the oven, because it cooks differently depending on where it lands,” he says.
But his love of cooking resulted in three of his pizzas being certified Vera Pizza Napoletana — an official affirmation that they’re made in accordance with certain international standards. Venturi asserts that his is the only pizzeria in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio to have this certification.
His top three selling pizzas are the margherita, pepperoni and fig pizzas, which range from $9 to $13. Venturi also offers sandwiches, salads and desserts.
Venturi’s hours are limited to lunch from Wednesday to Friday and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, because those are 12-plus-hour days for the hands-on owner. And he still wants to spend time with his wife and two children ages 3 and 5.
Does he consider his pizza “life-changing”?
“I know it’s changed my life,” Venturi says. More information about the restaurant can be found online at eatventuri.com.
Have you heard?
Starting Saturday, the Granger Farmers Market is moving indoors for the holiday season and beyond. It will be located at 12435 Adams Road, at Bittersweet Trail shopping center. ... Christopher Allan Jewelers opened a new storefront this week at 17917 South Bend Ave., South Bend. ... Jimmy John’s sandwich shop opened this week at Indiana 933, South Bend, north of Cleveland Road. This location offers a drive-through. ... Heritage Square in Mishawaka is hosting trick-or-treaters from noon to 2 on Saturday. And the South Bend Farmer’s Market, 1105 Northside Blvd., is also hosting trick-or-treaters from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday. ... Join our next live chat at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Heidi Prescott’s column runs in the South Bend Tribune on Fridays and Sundays. When she’s not shopping, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-235-6070. You can also talk retail at Facebook.com/thebasket and at Twitter.com/marketbasket.