Blog: Dave Mancini

The Detroit Free Press recently voted Supino's Pizzeria tops in Metro Detroit (no small feat, given the competition; GQ ranks Detroit as third-best pizza city in the U.S.). Dave Mancini, Supino's chef and owner, gives the Kitchen Confidential tour of his Eastern Market gourmet pizza place and dishes on his favorite local businesses.

Post 1: I'd Rather Stretch Dough than Stretch Patients

You've probably heard it a million times if you've entertained the idea of opening your own business – to be successful, find something you're passionate about and figure out how to make it profitable, or at least to foot the bills you will generate. There was truth in that for my case, but I found two other valuable things that I feel get less mention – flexibility and determination.  The latter may be fueled by passion but it is still a separate concept.

I was comfortable in a position as a physical therapist prior to my new gig as a pizza guy, but I was bored.  It's a good way to make a living but it just did not light my fire.   I would go home and read recipes and knead dough while colleagues of mine studied therapy journals. There's some irony in the fact that the restaurant jobs I secured to pay the bills during grad school were the genesis of my eventual career change.  

Soon after graduating I took a trip to my father's tiny hometown of Supino, outside of Rome, where my cousins make delicious pizzas in backyard wood-burning ovens that are as ubiquitous there as grills are here.  I spent the next seven years, while practicing as a full-time physical therapist, perfecting pizza recipes.  My recipe evolved and is now quite different from the focaccia-like crust of the Supinesi pies, but I still named the pizzeria for the town because it was the real inspiration.  I have always been partial to a thin crust (I hesitate to use New York-style as a term here – some New Yorkers have told me my crust is too thick, others say too thin.  Let's just say my crust is thinner than most of the ones you see around here.)  It took a long time with lots of frustration, toil, frustration, swear words, tears, and frustration, but eventually I got it right.  

And then I had to start looking for space – this took as much determination. You just have to keep looking and keep trying. If you have your feelers out you're going to find the right fit.  In my case this is where flexibility came into the picture. It would cost me 30 grand to install new hoods and ductwork for a wood-burning oven in an otherwise ideal space.  $!%$#^@#$^!!! That was not financially feasible for this son of a practical Southern Italian and a thrifty Scot.  

Back to the drawing board with the dough, I had to figure out how to make an exceptional crust in a gas oven.  So it was a few months more of work and consultation.  That few months doesn't sound like a lot relative to seven years, but it was one of the toughest moments of my life, having a day job, trying to get a space in order to do business, AND reworking the product that was the cornerstone of the concept.  

I work a lot of hours at the business now, but it all seems like gravy compared to that time.  And a last note to those folks who are a little more well-traveled. If you think it's too late to act on a dream, consider Julia Child. She was 36 when she first ate a meal in France, and was 49 when she first made any money in connection with food, as one of three to publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Now she's the eternal 'It' girl of continental cuisine in the U.S!  It's never too late.

*Supino's will be closed from March 14-29 so Dave can do some R&D in Italy.