Miguel Najera is crazy passionate about pizza. Starting out as a kitchen help/dishwasher in a Chicago restaurant, Najera happened on an opportunity to show the chef his ability to craft pizza dough and quickly became their star pizza maker.
Shortly after, the chef’s position became available and Najera was promoted. Being a head chef was OK, but his real dream was to have a great pizza place where he could serve up the very best Italian pie.
Consequently, after a year or so at the restaurant, he decided to go out on his own. He and his business partner, Pete Giannolla, opened their first pizza place in East Troy. That was 18 years ago, and now he owns three pizza places that serve other tasty Italian dishes as well.
“Pete was a truly great friend, mentor and very smart businessman,” says Najera. “He taught me a lot, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him. His passing was very sad, and I think of him often and appreciate all he did to help make our business a success.”
Dousman location makes three
Having had great success at his restaurant in East Troy, Najera decided to open a second restaurant in Palmyra. It, too, has become a flourishing business.
As luck would have it, “The owner of this shop (in Dousman) came to me to ask if I was interested in taking over her business. Since it was already a pizza place, I felt that with a few changes and some upgrading over time this could be a successful little restaurant,” explains Najera. “So I agreed to the purchase, and the first thing I did was get a phone with multiple lines and a new higher-capacity dough mixer, which helped me run the business much more efficiently.”
And that made three.
Najera sees pizza as an art
“When a craftsman builds a great piece, they often wish to keep it for themselves. That is how I feel about my pizzas. They are put together so well that I want to have them for myself,” Najera quips. “I really feel like I am creating a work of art with the many unique combinations ... and if you want people to buy your work, it needs to be very good.”
Najera crafts his own sauce and dough and buys only top-of-the-line basics. He uses grande cheese that is made in Brownville, Wisconsin, and is sold only to pizza establishments.
“It is the best cheese in the country,” he insists. “The other ingredients are from a well-respected pizza supplier, and the vegetables are all fresh.”
Carryout and delivery
Most of Najera’s business is in the form of carryout, but it does deliver within a 10-mile radius, and there is limited seating at the restaurant.
“People come in quite steadily and pick up large orders,” says Janene Mecca, a dedicated employee. “People always rave about the food. And when I deliver pasta or pizza, I always feel like I am bringing them a treat because they always seem very excited to get their order.”
Besides great pizza, Najera offers a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and Italian pasta dishes.
“My top sellers are the Ulimate Sin pizza that is made with five meats and my mostaccioli,” says Najera.
Najera also makes it possible for people on a budget to have his indulge in his fare by offering deals on Thursdays and Sundays. For instance, a family of four can eat an entire meal of pizza, bread sticks and soda for $16.99; a large pizza with two toppings is $7.99.
His one standard is “to give everyone the best food at a fair price.” His Dousman location is catching on.
½ pound filled tortellini shells
2 cups of heavy whip cream
8 ounces diced ham
8 ounces broccoli
4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of Romano cheese
1 teaspoon of garlic
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the tortellini. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Mix together all of the other ingredients and heat in a sauce pan until well blended. Drain and add the tortellini to the mix. Stir to coat and serve.