Maker Feature No. 002
At its core, Sozo is a brand that celebrates artists, entrepreneurs, innovators, and of course, makers. We do this by supporting their work and telling their stories through our SOZO Maker Features.
Vincent Morelli, Owner of Cent's Pizza + Goods, sat down with us for an interview conducted by our team to discuss what being an American maker means to him. Read his full interview and shop his look below.
What does being an American Maker mean to you?
First, being American to me means being welcoming, and it comes with great responsibility to fight for equality and offer equal opportunity to all people. Being a maker means to conceptualize ideas and make them into reality. As an American maker, I hope to create atmospheres, ideas, and products that bring people together and promote positive growth in the world.
Was being a chef always your first choice of what you wanted to do with your life and if not, what was?
Being a chef was never even a thought, and I honestly still don’t think of myself as a chef. I am a cook for sure, but I am not a trained chef and have never carried the title “chef.” It’s out of respect for all the chefs who worked and trained for many years to earn such a title. All I ever wanted to do is create a brand driven by a lifestyle with a sense of community. Fashion was the avenue I first chose to pursue because I thought, ‘since I am into fashion and I like the lifestyle that surrounds it, I need to do this to achieve xyz.’
What made you leave Cleveland to pursue a career in New York?
Leaving Cleveland at that time was such an easy decision for me. I needed and wanted to get away from everything that I knew. I felt a strong connection to the idea of throwing myself into unknown territory and just figuring it out…I still do. I definitely had a plan though.
In 2009, I decided that out of college I was going to work at 10 Deep. It was my favorite clothing brand at the time, and they were working with some great musicians that I idolized. I began interning there in 2013 during my last semester of school, which turned into a full time product development role, and I remained there for 5 years. Sounds corny but I grew a lot in New York and learned a lot about myself. I gained a huge network of people as well, including some of my best friends.
What made you return to Cleveland and decide to open a restaurant here?
Leaving New York was the hardest decision I have ever made. I loved it so much there but I needed a change. I knew that I didn’t love what I was doing career-wise, and that I couldn’t continue to go down that path. Once I allowed myself to think about change, I realized that fashion wasn’t my medium. I wasn’t the one creating / designing, so I wasn’t fulfilled.
Going through that, I was able to realize the things I could bring to the table, and that was always food and building a family-like community. So, I decided I was going to move home to Cleveland and try to achieve a certain type of community that I would miss so much from New York; the communities I found based around food, retail, and nightlife.
I always knew I would eventually be creating something in Cleveland because I knew it lacked platforms and outlets, or just a network of like-minded people I could relate to, which was a part of the reason I left in the first place. I definitely didn’t think it would be so soon. But, I was feeling like ‘I can be ahead of the curve if I go now, but if I wait, I will be a follower.’
Coming from a place like New York, you can see the curve before it happens. But the truth is, it’s not a sustainable place to live forever. People will go back to where they came from and bring their ideas with them. So, I gave myself a year to make a business plan and sharpen my skills by working at the busiest most popular pizza restaurant in the neighborhood, and then me and my girlfriend moved back to Cleveland.
What inspired you to open a restaurant based around Italian cuisine?
Italian cooking has always been a big part of my life. Growing up, my family is how I learned most of what I know. Family recipes took me back to a specific time and place when I was living elsewhere. They brought me home. I would have all my friends over in New York and cook them Italian food because I was missing the family gatherings.
I decided on pizza to be the centerpiece of my restaurant because it is casual and laid back and not pretentious. It is obviously about the food but it’s more about the experience; it is about enjoying your time with your people.
So, I was inspired by my family to cook. But the realization I had of using cooking to help achieve my other goals is what drove me to this decision. Through food, I’ve reintroduced the design, marketing and music parts of me which I was originally drawn to when I decided to leave New York.
What is your daily routine to keep you motivated and on track for the launch of your restaurant?
To be honest, I don’t have a daily routine besides getting up and working. There are a lot of things happening at once. Whatever is thrown at me, I field it and move on to the next task. Each day is different, but I pretty much stop in the shop at some point and look at the construction progress which helps me get motivated for the day. Right now, I am in the thick of construction, so I’m trying to get all of my finishes in line so, when the time comes, I’m ready to install. Then, I’ll go home and sit at my desk and spend time planning.
I stay motivated by reminding myself of the bigger picture and my long term goals. In the moment, it could be very easy to lose sight and get overwhelmed. But it’s all a part of the process. So, I trust in it and pray that I’m making the right moves to get me where I’m going.
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