In Italy, a lazzarone is a scrounger, a bit of a bum. In St. Joseph, though, a lazzarone just might get some respect. Or, anyway, a great pizza.
“In Naples,” says Erik Borger, a former competitive bodybuilder who this year opened a pizzeria called Il Lazzarone in the Missouri city, “a lazzarone might only work just hard enough for a meal and a bottle of wine. I liked that idea.”
Borger is the antithesis of a lazzarone. It took considerable labor and planning to open his restaurant — and to make it the only pizzeria in the area to have been certified authentically Neapolitan by the American Delegation of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.
Borger’s storefront restaurant, at 1628 Frederick, in St. Joseph’s core, fired up its oven only six months ago, but the owner started the application process to become a true Neapolitan pizzeria long before he opened the doors to the 78-seat Il Lazzarone.
“It can take years,” Borger says of the stringent requirements. “I started studying the guidebook, which is 46 pages long, five years ago. You have to have a wood-fired oven that has a minimum temperature of 800 degrees. The pizza has to cook in 90 seconds. You can only use a spiral or fork mixer — anything else raises the temperature of the pizza dough.”