Sedona, AZ — Just about everyone on the planet has heard the term “fast food.” But how many are aware of the antidote to fast food, called “slow food?”
Where fast food is composed of mostly un-nutritious components that do more harm than good, slow food elevates cuisine to the level of art, utilizing only the freshest and most wholesome of ingredients cooked to perfection in a natural way.
Over thirty years ago, a large group of Italians gathered in Rome for a protest. Why? A fast food franchise was opening at the base of the iconic Spanish Steps. Instead of throwing rocks and yelling, the activists brought in a big bowl of penne pasta and shared it with the crowd that gathered, chanting: “We don’t want fast food. We want Slow Food!”
That gathering was the birth of the Slow Food movement. Today, we are in over 160 countries, with over 100 chapters in the United States. Slow Food USA was established in 2000.
Sedona is lucky to host some of the top restaurants in Arizona but there is one that stands above the rest when it comes to adhering to the principles of slow food cooking.
Geraldo’s Pizzeria in West Sedona has been awarded the “Snail of Approval” by Slow Food Phoenix, an Arizona-based organization dedicated to the proliferation of slow food cooking across the state and beyond.
Slow Food Phoenix is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions; to counteract the rise of fast life, and enhance people’s interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, and how our food choices affect the world around us.
Slow Food believes food is tied to many other aspects of life including culture, politics, agriculture and the environment. Through our food choices we can collectively influence how food is cultivated, produced and distributed — and change the world as a result.
For Gerardo Pizzeria owner Gerardo Moceri, slow cooking is the only kind of cooking he has ever done throughout his career in the food industry.
“We recognize that restaurants have the opportunity to serve food that can make small positive changes every day,” Moceri said. “Since opening our first restaurant in Payson, Arizona in 2000, to our pizzeria now in Sedona, our mission has been to serve food that we would actually eat ourselves and be proud to put our name on. In preparing for dinner service, it often just feels as if we are making one big family dinner. That is the atmosphere we bring to the restaurant, with our wood burning oven as the centerpiece that brings everything together.”
Gerardo’s is a family business and following in his father’s footsteps, young Gerry Moceri is devoting his life to creating food that meets only the highest standards in the culinary world and strictly adheres to the principles of the slow food movement.
Having achieved his Masters in World Food Cultures and Mobility from the University of Gastronomic Sciencesin Northern Italy, he brings the vitality of youth to his father’s restaurant.
“We learned about various sciences that are related to food like, regenerative agriculture and its importance,” he said. “That’s something that I think a lot of people don’t think about. You got to think about what your food is growing in. If your food is growing in soil that has no life, how can you really expect there to be any life in your food?? And so, it just goes back to that. Food needs to be grown in good soil. Regenerative agriculture is extremely important. You can eat good flour, but it starts with the soil, and that’s just one part of it.”
Gerardo senior goes to great lengths in choosing the ingredients necessary to meet his standards.
“We find our vendors through research,” he said. “We don’t buy flour from any big company. So, probably we are the only ones in Sedona who don’t. I don’t want to name them, but the three big companies that are here we don’t buy from them.
“We source our flour from Shepherd’s Grain, who requires their wheat growers to farm regeneratively, helping bring life back to the soil. This is important for our dough, because if the soil has life in it, then so will the wheat, and so will our crust. Another important ingredient we source sustainably is our grass-fed beef, which comes from Tres Hermanas Ranch, just 15 minutes away in Cornville. These are two examples of how we source following the Good, Clean, and Fair Slow Food values, and we will continue to hold ourselves accountable to choosing the best ingredients for our guests.”
Working at Geraldo’s, Jaquelin Guzman, their intern from the Northern Arizona University School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, exemplifies the direction young people seeking careers in the food industry are going today.
“I’ve always really loved sweets, so I just started baking for fun at home,” she said. “After college, I decided that this was something I wanted to pursue full time. So, I worked at different bakeries and pastry kitchens. And then one of my professor mentors referred me to Gerardo, and that’s how I got here. I’m learning all about the business. I started working in the kitchen. After I learned the different roles within the kitchen, they started teaching me food running, bussing, serving, hosting. I’m just trying to get the full picture of what it’s like to run the restaurant. I am committed to the It’s about good, clean and fair food .”
Another aspect of slow food is being able to adjust and make changes depending on the market and what ingredients are available.
“We look at things in a way that is challenging because we undergo changes,” Gerardo senior said. “In the past, I used to buy frozen tomatoes just to please the customers, but that was the wrong approach. Now, we aim to please both ourselves and our customers. In America, finding the right small farmers and products involves some effort. You may need to pay a little more, but it’s worth it. We don’t follow a set plan, and some people might ask, ‘Don’t you have eggplant? No lasagna?’ Well, lasagna isn’t really Italian, and our menu depends on the season. We don’t source ingredients from faraway places just to satisfy customers. Instead, we focus on what’s in season, nearby.”
“The philosophy of Simple Italian cooking revolves around simplicity,” he continued. “Italians base their cuisine on quality ingredients. They believe the best products come from their own country, state, or region. We follow a similar mindset, even sourcing flour from the Pacific Northwest or California because it tastes better and is healthier for both us and the soil.”
The future is wide-open for Gerardo’s Pizzeria. There is one immutable fact, it’s a family run business and will always be.
“The past year has been unique, driven by our focus on pizza,” he said. “It has become our primary offering, making things simpler and allowing us to connect with customers. Despite being labeled a pizza shop, we specialize in high-end Neapolitan-style pizza. We make everything from scratch, emphasizing quality in every aspect. As for the future, we are uncertain about expansion. While we may consider it conservatively, we wouldn’t want to lose the personal touch that makes our restaurant unique. The magic isn’t just in the pizza; it’s also about who’s making it. Family is essential to our business.”
Gerardo’s Pizzeria is located at 2675 W S.R. 89A Sedona, AZ 86336 • 928-862-4009 • GerardosPizzeria.com
By Tommy Acosta, Jaquelin Guzman