My name is Adam and I’m the Chef/Creator of Pizza Payaa. Growing up in Chicago, I’ve always LOVED pizza. I grew up eating Geppetto’s (my first real job!), Giordano’s, Gino’s, Pequod’s, Burt’s, Lou Malnati’s, Villa Nova, Armand’s and more. But my love for pizza exploded when I took a trip to New York City. After a 3 day pizza tour, sampling over 20 slices, I was hooked and convinced that New York had the best pizza in the world. And it wasn’t close. I’m a food obsessed home chef, so naturally I started reading books and online forums to try to recreate what I had in New York. I chatted with pizza chefs from New York and took online classes to learn and perfect my pies. I bought a Baking Steel, pizza peels, dough boxes, special flours, obscure ingredients, special pans and more. After years of testing, I finally had a recipe I was ready to share with the world.
In March of 2020, I had a restaurant lease fully negotiated and ready to sign. I scheduled a date to seal the deal. Oddly, a leak sprang in the ceiling of the dining room a day before. We agreed to hold off until the leak was fixed. Then COVID hit and the world began to shut down. Suddenly the idea of opening a pizzeria, while many businesses were forced to close their doors or restrict their capacity, didn’t seem like the best idea.
But PIZZA! I had to share this amazing pizza. So I started sharing the pizzas with friends and family. Then I started taking pictures of the pizzas and posting them on Instagram. And as more friends and family tried it, their friends and family started asking to try it. Then they started posting it on social media. Before I knew it, hundreds of people were asking for pizza. I started a waiting list for free pizza that eventually topped 2500 people! The more pizza I made, the better it got. The feedback and support was overwhelming. It grew my passion for pizza even more and pushed me to be better and better. Almost every taste tester wanted to pay for another pizza and had the same question; “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO OPEN?”.
So, the search for a location began again. With restaurants only being allowed limited capacity, I had to be cautious. The pandemic has hurt so many small businesses in ways that people can’t even imagine. I didn’t want to rush and fail before the business ever got off the ground. So I searched and searched, talked to landlord after landlord, explored every opportunity presented to me until I finally found one that made sense.
The owner of MassVR, a local Virtual Reality business, sampled my pizza. She loved it so much that she approached me to partner up and use their kitchen. After successfully growing her business for a year, the pandemic forced her to shut her doors. This was a devastating blow. She wanted to do something to combat the mess that COVID created so we met, toured the building, and both loved what we saw; an opportunity to help a local business, ourselves and the community at the same time. I ordered the equipment, crossed the t’s, dotted the i’s, and got to work. I cannot wait to continue this journey and share our unique pizza with Bloomington-Normal!