The CERTIFIED slice: New pizzeria is Truly Organic with Big Apple roots

Owner Jason Chang shows off his meatball pie, topped with thick slices of hand-crafted meatballs at Truly Organic Pizza in North Naples. Jean Amodea

Photo by JEAN AMODEA // Buy this photo

Owner Jason Chang shows off his meatball pie, topped with thick slices of hand-crafted meatballs at Truly Organic Pizza in North Naples. Jean Amodea

If you go

Truly Organic Pizza

Where: Granada Shoppes, 1016 Immokalee Road, North Naples (next to Moe's)

Information: 239-598-8888 or www.TrulyOrganicPizza.com

— What restaurant, some would say, would have an owner with a name such as Jason Chang making pizza – a culinary style usually reserved for die-hard Italians or those in some way related or married into an Italian family?

The new owner of Naples' latest entry into the well-served food category, Truly Organic Pizza has an answer and a darn good one at that.

Chang grew up in Bensonhurst, considered the "Little Italy" section of Brooklyn, N.Y., the home of doo-wop and the heart and soul of all things Italian, especially pizza.

And, since Chang said he lived, breathed and loved pizza, growing up around the cuisine and around New York City pizzerias all his life, and he knows what they should look and taste like – he qualifies indeed as a connoisseur of the popular creation.

Add to that considerable and impressive business acumen earned from his days as a Wall Street floor trader and an overseas businessman and you have a savvy restaurant owner who knows how to work his new venture.

To show off his food chops, Chang has created 12 signature pies that not only taste authentic but are nutritionally good for you – his pies are made from USDA-certified organic ingredients, as he says, "with no exceptions."

And, he says that fact earns him boasting rights to advertise his "Truly Organic Pizza" as America's first and only USDA-certified organic pizza eatery.

The rights he said, did not come easy. It took dedication to an arduous certification process that cost thousands of dollars and about 100 hours of work.

"The 300-page application in itself was cumbersome, but I stuck with it. Even ingredients like the black pepper and yeast had to be organic — to my cleaning products and even pest control," he said.

Chang said that he wanted to fill a void and serve a product that is the answer to over-processed ingredients often used to make pizza today. Parents should have a healthful food alternative for their families, he said:

"Too many American children are beset with childhood disease like diabetes and childhood obesity due to unhealthy eating habits and the proliferation of fast food options that are not good eating choices."

And he is betting his business that today's health-conscious public is willing and ready to buy into that concept. And, judging from the 400 visitors who sampled slices at his March 16 pre-grand opening day, business should boom.

That day, the curious and the hungry scarfed down pizza samples with dough made from organic unbleached flour and veggie toppings and dairy products sourced from family farm co-ops that do not use pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides.

The beef in the meatballs comes from grass-fed cows; the pork sausage comes from animals raised without cloning or genetically modified organisms, and his chicken products are antibiotic- and hormone-free.

But aside from the obvious superiority of the organic ingredients, what does Chang think makes a good pie?

Traditional New York pies, he explained, have a crunchy-bottomed crust that is chewy in the middle and topped with plain cheese and tomato sauce; thin-style Neapolitan pies like the Margarita are baked in brick ovens and topped with fresh ingredients.

Both are his favorites. So Chang came up with his version of that he calls New York Neapolitan style pizza, in 12 different varieties.

The pies include a classic cheese pie ($16.95) with that ample crunchy crust made from organic dough, topped with San Marzano tomato sauce that is hand-blended with fresh garlic, olive oil and basil and topped with fresh mozzarella.

At $19.95 are the Tree Hugger, a vegetarian's delight and Jason's pie, a combo of mozzarella, wild mushrooms, peas, slivers of rosemary-roasted potato and hardwood smoked ham. There are also an eggplant parmigiana and Maui Wowie pie that features pineapples and hardwood-smoked ham.

Options for $23.95 are a wild mushroom pie, a buffalo chicken pie, the sausage-andpeppers pie, a chicken Alfredo pie and Jason's meatball pie, topped with thick slices of savory meatballs.

The carnivore at $26.95 serves up a hefty portion of pepperoni, Jason's meatballs and homemade sausage. Add your choice of toppings at $2.25 or $4.50 each for meat choices.

Chang also offers specialty pies that feature local ingredients in season such as a pie topped with feta-stuffed zucchini blossoms. He says he may also add a 10- inch personal-sized pie to the menu.

He is also considering opening additional locations in the future.

For now, anyone as far north as Bonita Beach Road, east to Interstate 75, south to Golden Gate or even west to the beach can take advantage of Chang's free delivery.

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