NowThis: Mozzeria

Good morning! This woman was turned away from culinary school because she's Deaf — now she and her husband run a top-rated restaurant with an all-Deaf staff.

She proved them wrong: A deaf couple is opening a pizzeria in D.C. with all deaf employees

Melody Stein grew up in restaurants.

Not only did her parents own and operate a Chinese eatery in San Francisco, but the family — all of them foodies — also constantly went out to eat. Stein still remembers the excitement of sampling Japanese, Vietnamese and French food for the first time. There was only one thing she wanted to do when she reached college age: attend the California Culinary Academy. Then, she wanted to open her own restaurant.

That’s when her deafness almost defeated her dreams.

“[The Academy] called my mom and said we can’t accept her application because she’s deaf,” Stein, 45, signed to The Washington Post via an interpreter in a recent interview. “What if they were in the kitchen trying to yell, ‘Out of the way!’ with hot soup? They viewed me as a liability."

Seven of the Bay Area's fanciest eateries make OpenTable's list of best restaurants

Another year, another year-end roundup of the best chefs and restaurants of the moment.

The latest comes from OpenTable, an online reservation platform, based on users' reviews of the restaurants.

California eateries nabbed 15 spots on the list, seven of them in the Bay Area. New York still boasted the most favorites, with 24 restaurants.

OpenTable says the collection of restaurants represent a diverse assortment of cuisines, from Hawaiian to Korean to Tex-Mex, but they certainly skew toward the pricy side. Perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise, given people are more likely to make a reservation for a special occasion at a high-end restaurant than a more casual place.

A Heartwarming Slice of Life: Pizza Made and Served by the Deaf

San Francisco has some of the best restaurants anywhere – and one of the most unique. Mozzeria, ranked among the top pizza places in the city, is also one of the first to be entirely owned and operated by people who are deaf.

Melody and Russell Stein opened the place in 2011, and it's been a foodie favorite from the start.

Their 900-degree wood-fired oven is the best they could find, and so is every ingredient, from sauce to sausage, to cheese, some of which comes from Italy. "We also make it in-house," said Melody, signing.

"And if that doesn't make you hungry, I don't know what will," added Russell.

Mozzeria Aims to Amplify its Mission

There are a lot of pizza joints out there, but nothing like Mozzeria, which is owned, managed and entirely staffed by people who are deaf. Located in San Francisco’s Mission District and open since 2011, it’s been designed with franchising in mind so the concept can be replicated and brought to other cities to help address chronic unemployment and underemployment in America’s deaf community one slice at a time.

Mozzeria first opened in 2011, and its Yelp reviews alone are a revelation. Customers comment on the unique Peking duck pizza and the usuals like ambiance and service, but the best stuff is from those who realize the significance and rarity of this restaurant. It attracts college students learning ASL, deaf people surprised with a visit by family and friends, and countless others who place themselves on a spectrum ranging from “cool” to “humbled.”

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This Neapolitan-style pizzeria—complete with wood-fired, 5000-pound oven—is owned by a Deaf couple, Russ and Melody Stein. He grew up in New York City, where dining out with his Deaf family was frustrating: When waiters would rattle off the daily specials, the Steins would nod politely and just guess at what was being said. So full communication access is a priority at Mozzeria, whose all-Deaf servers sign, write or gesture. And in a nod to Melody’s family, who've owned restaurants in Hong Kong for generations, Mozzeria serves up a signature Peking duck pizza with hoisin sauce, among other memorable creations. Soon, San Francisco won't be the only place to check out these wood-fired wonders: The Steins have started a franchise to give other Deaf people a boost in the restaurant business, so look out for the Mozzeria in Austin (Follow the restaurant's social channels for timing updates.)

Best of the Fest: Outside Lands 2018

Prepared by an all deaf staff from an awesome truck, this pie was the surprise of the fest. The crust was PERFECTLY crispy without being burnt and I could have chugged a cup of the perfectly balanced tomato sauce. The spice level of the solume was everything I wanted and more and it was that extra zing that put this pizza at the top of the standings.  

The 16 Essential Pizza Places in San Francisco

The dining room at Mozzeria is built around the beautiful, 5,000 pound Stefano Ferrara oven which means you get to watch as your Neapolitan pizza is prepared and cooked. In 2016, the restaurant expanded to a mobile food truck and, today, the team is looking to expand as a national franchise. When you eat at any Mozzeria outpost, you get to enjoy one of San Francisco’s best pizzas and support a fully deaf-owned and operated business!

Best Italian Restaurants in San Francisco

The wood-fired pizza is “wonderful” at this “terrific” Mission Italian with “unique”, “engaging” service by a mostly deaf staff; visitors say they “value the challenge of communicating fully in a new way” (iPad or pen and pad are available), as well as the “quiet” environs, but the food is why they “keep going back.”

The Biggest Slice from a Most Unique Establishment

In 2011, Mozzeria opened its doors to San Franciscans in search of delicious Neapolitan pizza. Many customers enter Mozzeria without knowing that its owners, Melody and Russ Stein, and staff are all Deaf, and the founders have created innovative methods to ensure that everyone understands one another.

In December 2017, Mozzeria became the first-ever business partner of the Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) Social Venture Fund, with the goal to expand the brand into the first-ever Deaf-owned franchise. Melody Stein reflects on the successes and challenges of building the successful local pizzeria as they begin their nationwide expansion:

This Venture Fund Invests In Deaf-Owned And Deaf-Run Companies

Melody Stein and her husband Russ co-own and operate Mozzeria, a wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District. Since opening in late 2011, the place has become a critical darling with additional catering, delivery, and food truck services.

Also, the Steins and all of their 15 or so employees are deaf. The sad truth is that makes their operation very unique. More than 70% of deaf Americans have trouble gaining full-time employment. So in December 2017, Mozzeria secured backing from a new kind of investor to start franchising.

The Pizza Show - Bay Area (Video with Captions)


The Bay Area is all about great produce, and there’s no better canvas to feature it on than pizza. From SF to Napa, we’re trying some of the best pizza Nor Cal has to offer.