“All Wisco, no Sysco.”This is Patrick De Pula’s sharp, self-penned mantra, and it tells you exactly how he feels about local sourcing.He came to Madison from New Jersey and set out to serve pizza his way: handmade tomato pies of uncompromised quality using only the best local, organic ingredients.
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“He’s kind of an instigator,” says John Jerabek, director of culinary operations at Sal’s.
But De Pula doesn’t do it to be malicious—he’s doing it because he knows local sourcing is vital to fostering a local food economy, and that Madison deserves a reputation as a culinary destination, down to the meals our kids are eating at the lunch table.
(Even Sysco, a longtime global leader in distributing food products, has implemented efforts to emphasize local sourcing and sustainability.)As it turns out, we needed De Pula’s no-holds-barred bullhorn in our city.
And he’s now become a food scene fixture.“I can say that his voice is one of the most important in moving Madison’s food scene forward,” says Jonny Hunter, a James Beard-nominated chef who is the founder and culinary director of the Underground Food Collective and Madison Magazine’s 2015 Chef of the Year.::::: On day one De Pula, 43, remembers vividly the night before his first day of service at his Sun Prairie pizzeria on West Main Street.
After working in technology and human resources for more than 10 years, he was opening a restaurant at 38 years of age with his wife, Nichole.
“He started on a shoestring,” says Depula’s mother, Patricia Aversano Schuler.
“They worked day and night.” That first night in 2011 before they officially opened, De Pula, whose son Salvatore was 3 at the time, had their 3-week-old son Joey strapped to his back in a Baby Björn while making dough.
De Pula liquidated his 401(k) and dumped all of their savings into the outdated strip mall storefront where they would offer food they weren’t sure would be well-received.
“I remember putting cash in the register that morning, which was most of the cash we had left, and thinking: We’re seriously rolling the dice right now,” De Pula says.
His friends told him he was crazy for trying to convince suburbanites that his pizza, which might look a little different than what they were used to, was worth the couple extra bucks for its quality ingredients.
“Everyone we knew in the business was saying ‘Why are you doing this in Sun Prairie? But De Pula had faith in the community northeast of Madison, with a population of about 30,000 that for the last decade has been one of the three fastest-growing communities in Wisconsin.