Dan Richer has been challenging the world of pizza for almost 20 years.
In 2012, he opened Razza in Jersey City, offering small, handcrafted, wood-fired pizzas—a rarity at the time. He’d been honing the recipe since 2003.
Today, after a decade in the kitchen, Richer and his staff are still experimenting and learning.
“I am a very curious person by nature,” Richer says. “I am always interested in trying something new.”
Looking back, Richer says the past 10 years have seen “a constant evolution” of trial and error. He documented the journey in his November 2021 book, The Joy of Pizza, with recipes and anecdotes tailored to home bakers with ordinary ovens and equipment.
“We are fearless risk-takers here,” Richer says of his staff, now four times larger than it was on opening day. “After 20 years of making pizza, I feel like I’m just getting started.”
Why did you pick Jersey City for Razza?
Dan Richer: I was hanging out in Jersey City a lot and I saw the trajectory and wanted to be a part of the growth of the city. I knew I wanted to be closer to Manhattan, but I didn’t want to open anything in Manhattan. Jersey City just felt like the right place.
Do you remember opening day?
Yes! I was not ready to open when we did. We started with a small kitchen and one wood-fired oven. During the pandemic, we built out the space directly next door so we’d have twice the amount of seating. And we more than doubled the kitchen space. Our team is three to four times the size of what it was when we opened.
Our product has evolved, and we have had so many changes in our menu and in the way we do business. It was a very organic and natural development and growth since opening day.
When did you first feel, “Hey, we must be doing something right?”
It was one moment. The New York Times review in 2017 changed our business overnight. We went from massively struggling to fill our dining room to not having enough space for all the guests who wanted to dine with us.
Would you ever open a second location?
I have had many opportunities to open in other locations, but I have said no every step of the way. I just love coming to Jersey City and being with my team. I love to be with the guests while they’re dining. Part of the joy for me is being part of all of it. I’m trying to be a husband and a father, and some things are way more important than building out restaurants.
Razza is known for its creative pizzas and dishes. Is there an ingredient you still hope to experiment with?
If we get an idea for something, we try it! If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Ninety percent of the things I attempt end up failing, and I’m okay with that. I learn the most from trial and error. It guides you through your next steps. I don’t say never when trying something new! I am always thinking about ingredients and pizza.
Do you have a favorite dish at Razza?
The thing I am most proud of is our bread and butter. It all stemmed from my desire to understand pizza. In order to understand pizza, I needed to understand bread baking. While making this bread, I thought: Why don’t I ferment some cream and make my own cultured butter? This was right before I started Razza.
The bread and butter dish has taken on a life of its own. We have a butter tasting on our menu with three different butters that we make at the restaurant, and we have so many more ideas for new ones. [Editor’s note: Indulging in Razza’s bread and butter made New Jersey Monthly’s 52 Things You Must Do in New Jersey feature]
Is there anything new in the works?
My book, The Joy of Pizza, came out last November. We are doing a mini-California book tour this month and some collaboration dinners. I am excited to work with California produce and make some pizza with my friends.
With social media, people from around the country, if not the world, will make a recipe from the book and send me a photo. Just seeing how their pizzas have been impacted by the book makes all that writing and hard work worth it. That’s one of my favorite things about pizza—the connectivity—because it brings people together. It’s pure happiness.Click here to leave a comment