An Italian pizza chef began to barter his pizza creations in exchange for other international food delicacies during the coronavirus pandemic-fueled lockdown in 2020.
Chef Gabriele Lamonaca's decision to do so not only gave him a chance to try his creations, but it helped pave the way for his dream pizza shop: Unregular Pizza.
The Rome, Italy, native, whose dream was to have his own shop, had found himself cooped up inside his apartment in March 2020 with no job. To occupy his time, Lamonaca began experimenting with different pizza recipes.
"I wanted to try out different combinations of toppings," Lamonaca told FOX Business.
Paola Sinisgalli, who is now the head of marketing and communications for Unregular Pizza, suggested that they create an Instagram page to showcase the creations Lamonaca was making in his Midtown apartment.
Their friends caught wind shortly after the images hit social media and requested a slice for themselves.
So, Sinisgalli and Lamonaca started hand-delivering the pizzas directly to their friends' apartments for free – that is until one of their friends returned the favor with homemade cocktails. It was sent to them directly from a guy on a motorbike, Sinisgalli told FOX Business.
The kind gesture changed everything and suddenly the duo decided they would swap Lamonaca's pizza creations for other food.
"It wasn't like a marketing strategy or a gimmick … it happened in a very organic way," Sinisgalli said. "You can't charge a friend for one pizza … it sounds ridiculous. And so we're like, what about since all the restaurants are closed, what if we try other cuisines in exchange?"
The exchanges started primarily with food – anything from homemade pasta, gelato and barbeque to Chinese food.
Then, "people realized they could barter whatever talent they had or passion," Sinisgalli said, adding that they started getting electric toothbrushes, facials, horseback riding lessons, messages and even hotel stays in exchange for their pizza.
Exactly one year after their first barter, on May 18, 2021, Lamonaca and his business partner Salvatore Gagliardo opened up Unregular Pizza. They've kept up their bartering tradition ever since, offering trades three to four times each week.
For one of its latest barters, the crew at Unregular Pizza got to team up with Ryan Serhant of Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing: New York" who bartered a cocktail party at a luxurious penthouse in Harlem, 145 Central Park North, for pizza.
The pizza shop claims it's the only joint in New York City to offer pizza in exchange for any good or drink creation by fellow New Yorkers.
They've gotten so many requests that it has been hard to keep up, so they've started to encourage interested barters to sign up through Unregular Pizza's website.
Over the past year, however, the shop began to realize that most of their barters were with small business owners.
To help them get their business off the ground, Unregular Pizza said it will reach out every month to a small business owner that they have worked with to do a pop-up shop inside the pizza store.
Unregular Pizza will sell its products alongside their slices at the shop. About 20% of the proceeds that come from those products will be put into a fund dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, according to Sinisgalli.