Lucia's Hires Award-Winning Neapolitan Chef

Ernesto Palmieri is a world-class pizzaiolo, restaurateur, and pizza-making teacher.


Image by George Maracineanu

A multi-award-winning chef and pizza-maker from Naples is now helming the ovens at Lucia's restaurant in downtown Berkeley.

It's the latest in an ongoing series of exciting upgrades at the three-year-old pizzeria. 

“We have been researching and hunting, while waiting quite some time to receive many of the new specialized ingredients from Italy — and to find the perfect chef to take us into the next phase of our business,” said co-owner Steve Dumain.

With nearly twenty years of experience as an executive chef, culinary teacher, and restaurateur, Ernesto Palmieri belongs to a new generation of Italian crafters who are boldly experimenting with new dough-making techniques and new toppings — while respecting classic Italian traditions.

Palmieri has won the Pizza World Championship in Parma, Italy, and took second place in the non-traditional pizza category of the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. Having participated in the Italian TV show Alice Master Pizza, he has been a visiting professor at the Instituto di Formazione Professionale di Roverto in Roverto, Italy and pizza instructor at the Gambero Rosso Pizza Academy in Naples. 

He owned and operated a pizzeria in his hometown of Nusco, east of Naples, from 2010 to 2017, and now hand-picks ingredients for Lucia's at local, sustainable, organic Bay Area dairies and farms. He also sources certain ingredients from Italy.

Palmieri's new additions to Lucia's menu include the Norma pizza (Corbara tomatoes, mozzarella, eggplant, ricotta salata, basil); the Vegan Farmer's Daughter pizza (Miyoko's cashew mozzarella, Brussels sprout and leek purée, kale, almonds, pickled cauliflower, woodfire-roasted bell-pepper purée); and the Cosacca pizza (hand-crushed Sicilian Corbara tomatoes, parmigiano and pecorino, oregano, garlic, basil).

The Cosacca reflects Palmieri's idea of pizza that was eaten in Italy before 1889 — that is, the era before the famous Margherita — consisting mainly of bread and tomatoes with local cheese. 

Thanks largely to its grana padano and pecorino sardo cheese toppings, the Cosacca's "end flavor has a full-bodied, sharp, acidic bite that makes the mouth water," Dumain said.

"As an owner, I came out of my vegan diet to eat this pizza" — whose fragrance alone he finds irresistible.



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