PIZZA ACROSS AMERICA & NATIONAL PIZZA DAY FEBRUARY 9th MEET CARMINE TESTA & JERSEY PIZZA BOYS by Calvin Schwartz January 4th 2018
It always fascinates how my commitment to a worthy cause is born. Last night (January 3rd), at comedian Mike Marino’s infamous Scotch Plains basement, an eclectic group of people, many in the entertainment industry, assembled, in an old-fashioned mixer environment, which means wine, pizza and meaningful talk.
It was easy to figure out Carmine Testa’s proclivities as he wore a custom ‘Got Pizza’ tee-shirt heralding his Carmine’s Pizza Factory in Jersey City and more importantly, the overwhelming success of his two young sons Michael and Nicholas, also known as the Jersey Pizza Boys. Their 100 million or so video views and an appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, only in part, dramatizes their story.
Then Carmine spoke about his (and the boys) passion to give back and the birth of ‘Pizza Across America.’ I listened and moments later, knew I had to bring my journalism at NJ Discover to tell their story of implementing ways to help feed the hungry, with the practical, magical-like gift of pizza.
I listened so intently last night and a few minutes ago, spoke to Carmine at great length, while a raging blizzard outside facilitated our time together. The story of how this national event, Pizza Across America on February 9th (National Pizza Day) found its birth is heartwarming and inspirational. I also mentioned to Carmine, my involvement over the past few years with homelessness and hunger, reporting at NJ Discover and the incredible statistic that in 1980, there were 45 food pantries in America; today there are 45,000. That’s why I’m writing this. A must story to tell.
The goal of Pizza Across America is to have a minimum of one pizzeria in every state aboard. But the more the merrier. This is the first year, so they’re trying for 100 pizzerias. Carmine added, “We have 90 so far. It is the responsibility of each pizzeria participating to deliver ten cheese pizzas to the Food Bank or Soup Kitchen of their choice on February 9th, National Pizza Day.”
I asked Carmine where this idea came from. “The boys, Michael and Nicholas, and I were teamed up with ‘Slice Out Hunger.’ This past summer we worked with the ‘Homeless Bus’ on July 5th in New York City. They fed about 150 people. It was a great feeling going home with the boys, being able to give back to people in need, hungry people. That’s where the idea for ‘Pizza Across America’ was born. We got the company ‘Slice’ to get involved. They have about 8000 pizzerias in their network.”
The idea, as eloquently explained by Carmine, is to grow this event every year. The goal is to feed 50,000 people. “This year we should feed about 8000 people. We strive to make an impact through pizza to bring awareness to hunger.” Another goal is to create a mindset where anyone can call any pizzeria and ask them to deliver a pizza to a soup kitchen. The initial focus will be on National Pizza Day to bring awareness. “It’s just a pizza transaction. It’s a simple loop. You can do this any day of the year to bring attention. You can order one pizza for yourself and one for a soup kitchen. A message here is that it sucks to be hungry.”
Thinking about the whole structure here, there is no excuse not to help. There is nothing negative. It’s just helping people. On National Pizza Day, February 9th, Carmine is looking to do some morning news segments and tell their story. They’ll take that first delivery in New Jersey then fly to San Francisco with the boys, meet up with Tony Geminani, a 12-time World Pizza Champion, master instructor at the International School of Pizza, two-time Food Network gold medalist, restaurateur, author and reality television personality and finish the night in San Francisco, doing the last pizza delivery. “Then mission accomplished. We will have delivered 1000 pizzas and fed 8000 people. Maybe next year, a World (International)Pizza Day. Helping people in need, making a difference.”
Another dream of Carmine’s is to get the pizza food distributors behind their effort. There is so much potential for good there. He explained that a bag of flour (50 pounds), two cans of tomato sauce and 25 pounds of cheese can make 70 pizzas and feed 560 people. Amazingly simple, yet poignant numbers.
And to think I almost cancelled going to Mike Marino’s last night because of the impending snow and I would’ve missed out on Carmine Testa and an important mission of giving back, baked into pizza. Of note last night also hanging out, part of this amazing group, Suzy Yengo, Catch a Rising Star Comedy Clubs, ‘Marklyn-Scotch Plains,’ Real Talk Media Production, Michael Schwartz, Hometown Heroes, Gary Gellman, Gellman Images, Deanna Dell Bene, Rotary Club and of course NJ’s Bad Boy of Comedy, Mike Marino. And so it goes.
MEET CARMINE TESTA
Carmine has been active in the restaurant business for 34 years. The starting point was when he was 13, his father bought a pizzeria in Perth Amboy and when he was 20, he owned his first business, Pizza Villa in Iselin. In 2000, he opened Carmine’s Pizza Factory in Jersey City followed by Carmine’s Mobile Wood Fired Pizza in 2014 which specializes in corporate and private events.
Carmine is the father of Michael and Nicholas Testa, the Jersey Pizza Boys which means they are young amazing pizza acrobatics, having made many National TV appearances and travelled all over America for private events. Their notoriety includes appearances on Jimmy Fallon, Tonight Show, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey, Big Shots and Hell’s Kitchen.
You can find/follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as “Jersey Pizza Boys” and therein resides some 100 million social media views of their videos.
SLICE OUT HUNGER produces pizza-related events and campaigns to support American hunger relief and prevention initiatives.
We are a community of pizza lovers. . .
Slice Out Hunger is has raised nearly $250,000 to fund hunger relief efforts around the US since launching in 2009. The original idea was simple: use food donated by independent pizzerias to raise money for local food banks and pantries with proven track records. Our first pizza party featured about fifty pizzas from half a dozen pizzerias in NYC and raised about $500. Our last major event raised $50,000 in just three hours, featuring 1,500 pizzas from over 50 of the best pizzerias in New York City. The annual event has become an institution in New York City and has inspired cities around the country to host similar fundraisers. The size of the party continues to grow, but the focus has always been to highlight independent pizzerias while supporting those in our community who have trouble affording food for themselves and their families.
The pizza industry is currently experiencing a massive growth phase, which is reflected in the media by way of frequent “Top Ten” lists and restaurant reviews bragging about imported ovens and rare tomatoes. Pizza is a $37 billion industry in the US. Let’s face it, we’re obsessed. Slice Out Hunger founder Scott Wiener tapped into pizza fever when he launched Scott’s Pizza Tours in 2008. Over 46,000 tourists, locals, pizza lovers, and pizza professionals have since attended excursions to significant New York pizzerias with his company. Food tours are fun ways to experience a city, but treating food as entertainment is a luxury that too many people cannot afford. Slice Out Hunger became a way to harness the momentum of our collective pizza obsession to effectively support those who have trouble meeting their own basic food needs.
New York City isn’t the only community that can benefit from our efforts, so we’re expanding our scope across the country. We’re currently working on a plan to help communities run Slice Out Hunger events of their own as well as implementing effective campaigns to raise funds and awareness for our neighbors in need. We’re partnering with incredible pizzerias, ingredient purveyors, food distributors, and pizza industry affiliates to spread the message the pizza has the power to unite and support communities.
IMPORTANT LINKS TO CHECK OUT
LINK TO VIRAL VIDEO: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1058112324293854&id=224255387679556