A Love Affair With Pizza
Pizzazz owner met wife through restaurant.
Do you want to hear a love story?
It’s a boy-meets-restaurant-meets girl story. For details, keep reading.
Mark Gaspar started bussing tables at Pizzazz, an Italian restaurant at 839 SOM Center Rd., Mayfield Village, when he was 14. With eight siblings he knew he’d have to go out and earn extras if he wanted them. It was helpful that he loved everything about the restaurant, and gradually learned to do it all.
Eight years later, when he was helping to launch Pizzazz at Fairmount Circle, University Heights, he met Val Vitantonio, a John Carroll University student hostessing at the restaurant. And four years later they married.
All the while, he’s shredding mozzarella and kneading pizza dough, happy as a clam. He’s hooked, you see, on Pizzazz, just like he’s hooked on Val. "It was love at first sight. I knew she was meant for me," he told a restaurant patron as they sat chatting in one of the restaurant’s cozy booths. "I begged her to go out with me for four months."
Naturally, he bought Pizzazz on SOM when the opportunity arose in May 2008, and there you have it. Val uses her finance degree to handle the books, and Mark keeps on cooking the same recipes he learned from the original owners, John and Marie Speccia. And his sister Stephanie jumped into the mix, too, learning the entire operation as well.
"She’s almost as good as me," Mark said with a devilish grin.
As for the food, "everything is made from scratch, from fresh ingredients," he said. "We go through a couple hundred pounds of mozzarella every day. It comes in 13-pound logs." And yes, it is shredded fresh.
"Not like those chain pizza shops," he added.
Pizzazz thanks the community for keeping it open all these years by donating gift certificates and food to local fundraisers, "$10,000 worth last year," Mark said.
"I grew up here." And you know he’s talking about both Pizzazz and Mayfield Village.