January 1, 2018 |

Conversation: Peyton Smith, Mission Pizza Napoletana, NC

By Denise Greer

Peyton Smith, owner, Mission Pizza Napoletana, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Peyton Smith, owner, Mission Pizza Napoletana, Winston-Salem, North Carolina


Mission Pizza Napoletana is a bustling, modern pizzeria focused on: proper Neapolitan pizza; Italian-inspired small plates, veg and pastas; North Carolina craft beer and undiscovered Italian wines. (We’re) more like an osteria masquerading as a pizzeria.

Our mission is to produce pizza just like you would find on the streets of Naples, and to honor the rich tradition of pizza Napoletana by combining the highest quality ingredients available with masterful technique. We strive to educate, innovate and advocate the tradition of Neapolitan pizza.

Neapolitan pizza is very much a work in progress in NC. One of our main objectives is to educate the consumer what exactly it is, why it is different and what to expect. MPN was the first Neapolitan pizzeria in NC, and before that my mobile company Forno Moto introduced real Neapolitan to NC. There aren’t many others still. We introduced a product that the market simply hadn’t seen before, so challenges were inherent. Neapolitan pizza looks, feels and tastes different than what the average consumer in NC is familiar with. Educating them, asking them to eat with an open mind and asking them to consider quality versus quantity in a commodity-driven pizza world in our area is a constant. To me, though, there is a risk in over-educating or explaining the product. After all, the pizza speaks for itself –– it’s gotta be good, or who cares about tradition?

How do you tell your story to Winston-Salem? That is the million-dollar question. I am sure I am not that good at it. Of course, we rely on positive word of mouth and whatever local media reach we can muster, but reaching people in a way that offers real ROI is elusive — especially for us, as we are on the edge of downtown Winston-Salem, historically a very quiet, low traffic area. We start telling our story by putting good food on the plate, and hopefully we reinforce that with competent, courteous service. We manage our own social media, trying our best to engage our audience, and we do fun things like shooting a funny commercial about what makes our pizza unique (complete with original opera music), host chef showdowns like our Knife Fight series featuring local chefs competing in our open kitchen, and lunch pop ups. And of course, we highlight as best we can the organic media and industry recognition we have garnered to date: best pizza according to “Thrillist”, featured in Where to Eat Pizza by Daniel Young and took fifth place at the Caputo Cup USA 2017, among others.