Pizza as a political platform? In the District’s political climate, it’s more likely than you think.
Pizzeria Paradiso founder and owner Ruth Gresser has launched a new campaign to celebrate the leading ladies on Capitol Hill.
Dubbed “United States of Pizza: Women’s Slice of the Pie,” the campaign is set to honor female-elected officials with a weekly rotation of themed pizzas with toppings and ingredients that pay homage to their home states. The pizza company created a similar campaign during the 2018 midterm elections in support of female candidates running for office.
Having lived through several years that people considered the “Year of the Woman,” Gresser said she didn’t want it to end.
“I didn’t want to let go of the idea that a ‘year of the woman’ could turn into just years of women,” Gresser said. “I wanted to extend it into 2019.”
The weekly rotation of pizzas, which began in late January, includes the “Arizona Pozole Pizza,” in honor of Sens. Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema and Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Debbie Lesko, with hominy, pork, chiles, cabbage, queso fresco and queso seco. Another favorite is the “Connecticut New Haven Style Pizza,” in honor of Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Rep. Jahana Hayes, with a thin crust pizza topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and oregano.
Drew McCormick, the first female beverage director of the restaurant chain, also stressed the campaign’s relevance and utility, especially in the restaurant’s existing rotation structure.
“It’s a fantastic way to take a weekly rotating special and sort of latch onto a larger theme that’s happening in the world,” McCormick said. “And to make pizza a little bit of a political platform; which I think is kind of amazing.”
Since Gresser founded Pizzeria Paradiso in 1991, the restaurant chain has swelled with success, having added its fifth location in Spring Valley this past December. As a female business owner in a male-dominated trade, Gresser sees it as her duty to bring women in positions of power to the forefront of the political conversation.
“I think it’s important to highlight women in leadership,” Gresser said, underscoring her restaurant’s physical proximity to the government. “It just makes sense.”
Gresser said she is aware of the uniqueness of her position and the struggles that other female chefs have endured in the harsh reality of the male-dominated industry.
“The reality of the restaurant industry for a lot of women is not particularly good,” Gresser said. “Someone like me, who has been in the business as long as I have and is the sole proprietor of a successful group of restaurants, is a very, very rare creature.”
She and McCormick both agree that the campaign is not meant to solely identify women in power, but to spark a conversation around them.
“I think, for me, including it in part of what we do and the special pizza is not necessarily to normalize it, but to just bring it into the larger conversation,” McCormick said. “It doesn’t always have to be this very serious thing and you don’t have to be wonk to have a political conversation.”
By putting a politicized pizza pie on the table, Gresser and her team at Pizzeria Paradiso are looking to be a part of a bigger movement—even if it starts with a dinner conversation.
“The more we talk, the more the role of women in the world is recognized and acknowledged,” Gresser said. “That’s how change can happen.”