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Mozzeria: A New Deaf-Owned Restaurant in San Francisco

By Deaf411 | January 18, 2012

Stefano Ferrara wood burning pizza ovenWhen a 5,000-pound Stefano Ferrara pizza oven was imported from Naples, Italy to San Francisco last September, it marked another big step for Melody and Russell Stein in starting up their pizzeria.

This particular wood-burning oven now lives at Mozzeria, a modern Italian restaurant in the Mission district of San Francisco, CA. In July 2011, the Steins took over the former Il Cantuccio property, which closed in April 2010, and lovingly transformed it into a welcoming space for San Franciscans to enjoy genuine Neapolitan pizzas.

Mozzeria is located in the Mission district of SFBay Area Embraces Mozzeria
When Mozzeria opened to the public on December 9, 2011, Melody Stein officially became the third generation of restaurateurs in her family. It wasn’t an easy task; even with her hospitality management degree from San Francisco University, prior experiences organizing special events and serving as ambassador for a large non-profit organization, and a culinary tour throughout Italy, banks would not provide funding to make her dream a reality.

Creating media buzz on internet

Melody and her husband, Russell have been sharing their experience, according to Inside Scoop SF, the Bay Area source for breaking restaurant news, in a “detailed blog about their trials and tribulations.” The bay area bits blog at KQED reports that “its fans have been cheering on Mozzeria’s progress over the past year.”


Mozzeria opened on December 9thSince Mozzeria opened on December 9th, local residents and merchants have been seeking out the venue for its traditional and non-traditional pizzas, small plates of cheese and Italian meats or olives, and pasta. The spotlight, however, is on its pizzas – prepared with freshly sourced ingredients and cooked for 90 seconds in a wood-burning oven creating a rustic flavor. Another huge hit is the “Mozzeria Roll”, an appetizer with fresh mozzarella cheese and Neapolitan sauce, which is nearly a meal unto itself!

Media Perception
Melody and Russell SteinMozzeria has been in the media spotlight even before the opening. Grub Street San Francisco reports that Melody is a third generation, Asian-American restaurateur, and she’s long had a dream of opening a Neapolitan pizza spot. And finally in July 2011, they decided upon a site, “a plum location, between Dolores and Guerrero.”

The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported earlier this month that Melody “was born in Hong Kong and moved to Fremont at age 6. She attended Washington, D.C.’s Gallaudet University, where she met her future husband [Russell]. He was from a similar big-city background, the pizza mecca that is New York. After spending nearly a decade in South Dakota, working for a nonprofit organization serving deaf people, they decided it was time for a change.” So they moved to San Francisco, and planted the seeds of the Mozzeria dream.

During an interview with the Huffington Post, Melody mentions, “I am just like any other person who wants to pursue their dream. You don’t see deaf restaurants out there. As a deaf person who wanted to open a restaurant to serve customers, both hearing or deaf, my goal is to hire deaf professionals, whenever possible. I know how hard it is for them to find jobs in professions that are resistant to hiring them. I experienced the same thing myself, and in launching the restaurant, I want people to see that deaf people are talented professionals who are capable of doing their jobs.”

What Are Hearing People Saying?
Getting feedback from hearing customers For Melody, the biggest surprise “was getting feedback from the hearing customers, some of whom have complained on Yelp about the lighting and the music. The Steins say the early reviews have been helpful in figuring out what people want.” The media has also scrutinized the aspect of the Steins’ deafness, with the San Francisco Gate mentioning that “the Mozzeria staff consists of eight rotating servers. All are fluent in ASL, and three are deaf. In the kitchen, two dishwashers are deaf, and the third knows ASL.”

Melody reminisces to KQED that “our UPS man has gotten used to Deaf culture now that he has been making so many deliveries here. He knows to wave his arms outside the window to get my attention when there is a package for me.”

As Mozzeria grows, its fan base will continue to spread among members of the Deaf community – as well as hearing people in the Bay Area. Deaf people, their friends and family members visiting San Francisco are including Mozzeria in their itineraries.

Franklin Grammar, line cook at Mozzeria who is hearing, tells The San Francisco Chronicle “Communication is not a problem, period.” The article also goes on to say, “the goal is simply to be a great restaurant that all people (hearing and deaf) can enjoy.”

Mozzeria is open for dinner Tuesdays through Sundays, and serves brunch on weekends.

3228 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

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