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MASSIMO'SPaying it forward, one slice of pizza at a time.Johni TollnerHout Bay may have more than its fair share of treasures to visit and explore, but it’s in Oakhurst Park on Main Road, that you will find a true and rare Italian gem. If traditional woodfired pizza is your thing, or if you like all things al dente, or if you just plain prefer everything to come with cheese – Massimo’s Ristorante Italiano is where you need to be. Founded in 2009 by pureblood Italian Massimo Orione and his lovely wife Tracy, the pizzeria offers so much more than just the best pizza in Cape Town. The Massimo team prides themselves on using only the best homemade and ingredients, organically grown and free range, bought from local suppliers; everything is done with an eco-friendly focus; and bonus – they are pet-friendly with a special menu for your fur baby to choose from.But more than anything, this restaurant comes with a whole lot of heart. As Massimo himself stated to Sanctuary Magazine, the restaurant currently supports a minimum of ten charities in the Hout Bay area. He explained how a life-threatening cancer scare in 2013 caused him to see a much bigger picture in life, influencing the magnitude of how the restaurant gives back to its community, paying it forward one pizza slice at a time.
“I was diagnosed with leukaemia at the beginning of 2013,” Massimo said in his thick Italian accent. “I was given seven months to fix it or I would be dead.”
Fortunately for Massimo, one of his sisters in Italy was a 100 per cent match for a bone marrow transplant, and he and Tracy sadly had to close shop for ten months to go have the surgery done in his home country. It was a major success.
“I had the transplant in September later that year, and by February 2014 we were back and I was in full remission. Now it’s been almost nine years and I keep going for check-ups, but I feel like a completely new man. I even run half marathons,” he stated proudly. Come 2022, and Massimo’s contributes between R8 000 to R10 000 to local charities every month, having donated almost R90 000 in 2021 alone. He said the idea of paying forward comes from an Italian tradition called “caffe sospeso” (or suspended coffee), where patrons pay for an extra cup of coffee along with their own, and these cups are then given to someone who is perhaps less fortunate.
“So, here we do it a bit differently. You can buy a slice of pizza for R10, so with every six slices sold, we have one pizza to give away. We save them for when they are needed in the community, like for instance when there is a fire in Hout Bay, we’ll take a whole bunch to the fire station and also give them to affected community members,” he continued, further saying that hundreds of pizzas get distributed to local heroes and those in need every year. Beneficiaries of Massimo’s cause includes the local volunteer ambulance service, the IY Ukuphila Community Clean-Up project, Kronendal Music Academy – which is open to the impoverished children from Imizamo Yethu informal settlement and Hangberg fishing village, and Love In a Bowl, an organisation that grows organic vegetables to donate to the very young, vulnerable and the elderly who are sick. Last, but certainly not least, they also support as many local animal shelters as they can, including the Domestic Animal Rescue Group (DARG), Border Collie Rescue, Hout Bay Pets, and the Underdog Project, who uses highly successful animal assisted activities and therapeutic workshops to teach empathy to youngsters in their communities, and bring joy to troubled dogs.
All that being said, if you are ever in the Mother City, spare some time, take your dog, and go enjoy some authentic Italian fare at Massimo’s. You won’t be disappointed. And don’t forget to buy that extra pizza slice, because well, you can pay it forward too.