A young Rod Schaefer walked into his grandparents’ kitchen and immediately took in the smell of Italian food floating in the air. He happily, and hungrily, gathered around the kitchen table with his family to enjoy his mom’s homemade dinner and the laughter and joy filling the room. Dinnertime always brought his family together. As Schaefer grew up, he realized he wanted to take that closeness out of the four walls of his home and put it in a place where others could enjoy it as well.
This inspired him to open Pizzeria Testa—a unique Italian restaurant that not only had the traditional Italian food, but traditional Italian atmosphere as well. The restaurant includes a nod to Schaefer’s mother, whose maiden name is Testa.
“We have a little saying,” he said, “’Gather around our kitchen table and make yourself at home.’”
When Schaefer and Pizzeria Testa director of operations, Brian Webster, started working on this project in 2009, they went to Naples to discover what makes a perfect traditional Italian pizza.
“Rod would walk up to strangers and ask everyone what their favorite pizza place in the city was and why,” Brian laughed as he recalled.
To their surprise, most Italians said they value how pizza makes them feel after eating it. They looked for a pizza that was full of flavor but easy to digest. It seems that in Western cultures, we often believe we need to sacrifice flavor for “the healthy choice” or the other way around—but Schaefer and Webster were committed to finding a way to have the best of both.
Schaefer was proud to show off the heart of Pizzeria Testa’s food: the 7,000-pound wood-burning oven and fully fermented dough used in all their bread products, including appetizers and desserts. A key component of traditional Italian cooking is the ability to pull rich flavor out of only a few ingredients. Schaefer began to apply this philosophy to the root of his famous pizza—the dough.
Their fully fermented dough only contains four ingredients: water, sea salt, fresh yeast, and double-zero flour.
The flour used in the dough determines whether the pizza is light and fluffy or heavy and greasy. Pizzeria Testa uses a special flour that is light and airy designed to not weigh down the stomach, so consumers feel satisfied, and not like they ate too much. For this, Pizzeria Testa has double-zero flour, which is imported from Italy from the Caputo family.
“We got to tour their mill when we were in Naples and it was fascinating, just the care and quality that they put in, just the attention to detail that they put into every part of their process,” Schaefer says.
Waitress Erin Wilson said the restaurant has two 7,000-pound wood-burning ovens that cook pizzas at 1,000 degrees in 60-90 seconds on a volcanic wood-stone floor imported directly from the Naples region of Italy. There is no freezer—except for the one for ice—or microwave in the facility.
Pizzeria Testa prides itself on the versatility of the atmospheres it offers throughout the restaurant. When a customer walks in, they instantly get greeted with a smile and led to a table inside the main room. If it’s a bigger party, they are led to the marble dining-room-style “family” table that is adjacent to a glass pane where they can watch their pizza get made and cooked.
If a customer is looking for a more casual, outdoorsy environment, they can head to the patio area of the restaurant that is surrounded by a garden, natural light, and shades of pretty pastels. From there, customers can see into the room where the dough is made and, if interested, can ask the owners about the process by which they make their dough. Schaefer likes to keep the cooking process of their food as transparent as possible, literally.
For a family who’s looking for a more private dinner to enjoy, Pizzeria Testa offers a closed off room that emulates the style of an Italian wine cellar. It is a dark room with wooden walls and collections of fine Italian wines put up against it. There is a long table in the middle designed for a family to gather around.
“We wanted to have a different set up where you feel like you transported yourself out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer opened this location in Dallas with the desire to be a gift and a blessing to the community Pizzeria Testa is a part of. This goes beyond the quality of their food, and extends to the quality of their service. Pizzeria Testa participates in events with nonprofits, such as Dallas Life, and local churches. This, according to Schaefer, is truly the essence and heart of who they are.
“Our mission is simplicity with excellence for the glory of God. That’s why we do what we do,” says Schaefer.