Lately, it feels like fashion and food are becoming increasingly intertwined. From Haute Cuisine to Karlie's Kookies to new fashion foodie mag Cherry Bombe, the fashion industry has taken its surprising food obsession to new levels.
And apparently, sometimes, the feeling is mutual. Glasgow-based restauranteur, chef, and food artist Domenico Crolla has taken his love of fashion and celebrity and channelled it into pizza.
Not following? He creates pizzas that look almost frighteningly like celebrities and fashion personalities.
He initially caught our eye with a particularly impressive rendering of Tom Ford we found on Twitter, where he is quite active (Instagram, too). He's also done Anna Wintour, Dita Von Teese, Beyonce--even a pair of Louboutins have had their pizza moment.
We caught up with Crolla, the owner of two Italian restaurants in Glasgow--Bella Napoli and Pizza Couture, over email to find out how the idea to make these amazing fashion pizzas came about, how he creates them, his subjects' response to his work, and why Tom Ford (who he'd like to make him a chef's jacket) was one of his easiest pizzas yet. (Hint: It might have something to do with Ford's grooming routine.)
Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into the pizza business? My father came over from Rome and started in the restaurant business... so I worked there from an early age and fell in love with the business. How did you learn how to do pizza art? Is it a very common practice? Food art is not new. There are several studio food artists that produce lovely artistic pieces. What makes my work unique is that its fresh from the oven and edible. Most other forms of food art are not edible. What inspired you do to pizza art of famous people? I think most chefs are naturally show offs with their food, or at least they should be. I have always had an artistic eye for arranging my food nicely on a plate. After all, the customer eats with his eyes. One day, almost by accident, I did something with a pizza that made me realize I could create shapes, logos, and faces on a pizza. My first attempt was the Mortal Kombat logo and Bruce Lee. These were for a cookery demonstration I was doing in Hong Kong at the time. Famous faces are easily recognized even if they are not perfectly executed on a pizza.
Is “Pizza Couture” supposed to be a fashion reference? I want the word ‘COUTURE’ to show that our pizzas are made fresh for each customer by skilled artisans with a large choice of gourmet toppings. It’s not fast food. "Haute couture," by definition, "refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable seamstresses, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques." I felt the above description reflected what I wanted to do with food. Have you always been interested in fashion? Fashion plays an important part in my family life. As a restaurateur, you have to be smart and presentable. I think it sets the tone of your business. My wife Genny has always been keen to see what’s going on in the fashion world and has a good eye for what looks good on her and our children. Good taste doesn’t mean expensive; it's dressing correctly for the right place and time. Some do it better than others--that’s what makes fashion fun. Who are some of your favorite designers? My favorite designers for gents are Angelo Galasso, Billionaire Couture, and Tom Ford. I have a ‘rounder’ figure and these cuts work well for me. Versace is also tailored well for the classic Italian figure LOL. Do you sell these pizzas or just do them for fun? At the moment, I just do them for fun and PR. They offer me a wonderful opportunity to promote my restaurant and show off my skills in the cucina.
How much would one cost? Do you get special requests? So far, I have resisted doing special requests. I don’t want to be in my kitchen on a Saturday night doing someone's granny for her 80th birthday. These are for me works of art, and I don’t think a customer will appreciate the time and skill involved. But the demand is so great that I may start charging a reasonable figure for my work with all proceeds going to charity. This is my way of giving something back.
How long does it take to do one--say, the Tom Ford one? Each pizza takes about an hour, maybe two hours to make. Tom Ford was actually one of my easiest so far with his perfect skin and lack of wrinkles. Not even bags under his eyes! Is it difficult? Do you have any special techniques? It does require an artistic touch with a scalpel. Not all images or faces are suitable so it can be tricky at times. It's more artistic than culinary, but for me that line separating the two has always been very fine.
Who is the most difficult/intricate pizza you’ve done? The one of the Pope and of the composer Giuseppe Verdi were the two hardest to date. Lots of small detail takes time--but this made them my most satisfying. You’re very active on social media- do you spend a lot of time on Twitter/Instagram? The restaurant business is well suited to Twitter and Instagram. Customers like to discuss where they have been and we can communicate directly with fans that want to know what we are doing. I never advertise, I only publicize... I just made that up and hope it makes sense. I want to tell people what we do in a manner that a paid advertisement cannot. Have any of the people you've done pizzas of ever contacted you? Have you tried to contact them? Sometimes even the famous respond [on social media]. Rihanna, Beyonce, Cristiano Ronaldo have all answered back thanking me for my pizzas. Sophia Loren also got back to me. I wasn’t expecting a response from Bruce Lee considering that he passed away some time ago, but his daughter Shannon Lee contacted me to say thank you. I even made Dita Von Teese go ‘WOW!' Not a lot of men can make that claim LOL. I’m now hoping that Tom Ford will get in contact. I’d love to ask him for a Tom Ford Couture Chef's Jacket in return. That would be very cool indeed. Are there any other fashion designers or personalities you want to do? I have attempted Giorgio Armani a few times and can’t capture that unique look that he has. I will keep trying. What else are you working on now? New restaurants or projects? Currently I run two restaurants in Glasgow, Bella Napoli, and Pizza Couture. I am discussing a project to expand a unique restaurant concept with stores earmarked for London, LA, Dubai and Hong Kong. This art thing is pulling me away from my usual restaurant work and I have to decide if it's something with a future or just a fad. Time will tell.
Click through for more pizzas.