When I came to New York from Naples in 2011 I had no job and only 50 Euros in my pocket. I had a dream of opening my own restaurant, but I needed investors. I rushed around New York City tasting every new experience, visiting two or three restaurants a day, sometimes posing as a reporter to ask all the questions I could need. The next, I'd just eat my way through the menu. When you eat and eat, your stomach stretches, and mine did. To feel satisfied, you have to eat more. I ate a lot more.
It began with an occasional soda. And then something tasty and fast to go with it. When you're trying to build a career and raise a family, you're hustling; everything else isn't so important—like what you're eating. I ignored what poor eating habits I was developing and what they were doing to my body. My doctor made me realize I was eating myself to death with junk food. And I had to change for the sake of my wife and son.
I started a lot of diets, but I found that I could never stick to them. I would drop a few pounds and then lose the discipline to continue and, ultimately, gain all the weight back. Statistics say that between 80 and 95 percent of people who diet end up putting weight back on—and then some. That was me. At the doctor's office, in that moment, I resolved to find a way to lose weight and keep it off. But I needed a strategy that was different.
During the summer I went home to Naples and met with a well-known Italian nutritionist, Giuseppe Moscarella, who told me: "You have to eat something that tastes good to you."
That evening, walking through Quartieri Spagnoli, the neighborhood in Naples where I grew up, I recalled my own childhood memories and promises: "One day I will be a pizza maker so I can eat pizza every day."
Then it hit me: Pizza! Pizza, the most important food in my life. Pizza, the reason I became a chef. If I cannot have pizza, I reasoned, I cannot follow a diet!
But what if I could make a healthier style? Knowing there's a pizza waiting for me in the middle of each day, I could follow any diet.
The next day, I began to develop my Pizza Diet...
The Coming Out
I experimented with ways to make pizza healthier and lower in calories. My pizza would be made with high-quality ingredients, and the dough would be fermented so it was lighter and more healthful. Using special Italian dough and fermenting it for 36 hours, much of the natural sugars are eliminated, leaving healthier complex carbohydrates. I formulated a meal plan based on the Mediterranean diet, eating fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, and whole grains and using healthy fats like olive oil and avocado instead of saturated fats. It's the way I used to eat in Italy, and I'd replaced it with fast food and sugary processed foods when I came to New York. Along with my beloved pizza, which I would eat every day, this dietary change would become my savior. I followed the Mediterranean-style of eating religiously for breakfast, snacks, and light dinners.
In the first two weeks alone, I lost 20 pounds. When you see that kind of progress, it gives you motivation. It gives you confidence in your conviction and makes you want to do more. After nine months, I had shed 114 pounds and completely turned my life around.
I understand how it is for people with extra pounds. They feel so frustrated, so hopeless. They feel terrible because they can't do everything they might like. I was that way, too. It's emotionally discouraging and exhausting. And I never want to go back to that place.
When people see me now, they ask how I lost so much weight and how I did it. When I tell them about the Pizza Diet, I can tell they are a little skeptical. "Are you sure?" they'll ask with a puzzled look on their faces.
Pizza Diet’s success
My weight-loss story has gone around the globe. I was on the front page of the New York Post and featured in magazines and newspapers in South America, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Russia. People are fascinated by my example. They are amazed and encouraged when they see my before-and-after pictures. It proves to them that if I can do it, they can do it. I am living proof that you really can heal your body with food and you do not need to cut pizza out of your life. When the dough is prepared the right way, it can be good for you and part of a well-rounded diet. My book will show you how.