For poor boys and muffulettas, New Orleans is the undisputed capital; but when it comes to pizza, talk usually turns to New York. Lately though, one local pizzeria has been turning that around.
NAKEDPizza, a fast-growing, New Orleans-based franchise company, has been expanding in New York with a distinctively different take on America’s favorite fast food. The company now has a location in Midtown Manhattan and another in the works at Union Square near New York University.
“NAKED(Pizza) has come a long way since launching the franchising company just under 24 months ago, but still, really, it’s just getting started,” says Robbie Vitrano, a partner with NAKEDPizza and chairman of the local agency Trumpet Advertising. “We now have 21 stores open from San Diego to Dubai with almost 500 in the pipeline.”
That pipeline includes overseas locations in Mumbai, India; Beirut, Lebanon; and Australia; plus cities a little closer to home, like Denver, Philadelphia, Seattle and Chicago. NAKEDPizza got its start in 2006 from a backstreet storefront in the Carrollton area under the name World’s Healthiest Pizza.
“It’s a head-turner for a lot of people when they hear healthy food is coming out of New Orleans, and especially that it’s healthy pizza,” says Vitrano.
What attracted such interest and allowed NAKEDPizza to stand out – even in a pizza town like New York – is its crust. Company co-founder Jeff Leach built a career researching and writing books on nutrition and he set out to reengineer this popular take-out food into something that is actually good for you. The fiber-loaded pizza dough he developed mixes seeds and grains, and it’s further fortified with probiotics, or beneficial bacteria similar to those in certain yogurts. It is all intended to promote digestive health and fill some gaps in the typical American diet.
“We’re using [pizza] as a Trojan horse, though a very transparent one, to put a healthy product in people’s hands and to get them some information [about healthy nutrition] too,” says Vitrano.
“Fast food is an understood and successful model, the logistics and delivery methods are all well-known,” he says. “We’ve studied that model and NAKEDPizza is 95-percent best practice. The other five percent is our different DNA, our transparency, our mission.”