Mozzeria, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria, is opening its doors to customers Friday, making it the first Deaf-owned and Deaf-led business on D.C.'s H street corridor in more than 150 years.
The restaurant was founded in San Francisco in 2011 with the goal of introducing customers to Deaf culture and offering career opportunities for Deaf people. Mozzeria D.C., located at 1300 H Street NE, is the restaurant's second location in the United States.
Even though Mozzeria will be a new addition to the District, the restaurant has D.C. roots. Founders Melody and Russ Stein met at Gallaudet University, just a few blocks from the restaurant's new location.
The restaurant itself is designed to harmonize with the Deaf experience. The kitchen and dining spaces are open in order to maximize visual communication between staff members, and LED lights are used as a notification system for incoming calls.
Customers can communicate with servers by pointing to items on the menu, but are also encouraged to place orders with their phones or try out some American Sign Language if they feel comfortable.
"Pizza is one of our love languages – ASL is what makes us a community, and we look forward to sharing our community with you," CEO Ryan Maliszewski said of the new opening.
Mozzeria's offerings include a classic Margherita, Italian sausage, spicy salumi pizza and more. All of their pizzas are baked in a special 12,000-pound wood-burning oven, imported from Naples, Italy.
Mozzeria is also one of only 818 restaurants in the world that can claim the distinction of a Verace Pizza Napoletana certification from Naples.
Mozzeria D.C. was made possible due to the CSD Social Venture Fund, an organization that invests in the growth of Deaf entrepreneurs.