Pizza Da Piero

Artisan Pizza

Pizza da Piero

‘These are gorgeous! You should be selling these!’

That’s how the adventure started for Gianpiero De Vallier and Cliona Swan, as their friends tucked into some home-made Italian pizza back in 2006. Inspired by their friends’ compliments and by a notable absence of quality pizza bases in the shops, Gianpiero – an Italian artisan baker – began to experiment with sourdough and poolish starters. A pizza party provided another opportunity for ‘customer feedback’. A friend working in a major Irish food company was impressed by what he tasted and encouraged Gianpiero and Cliona to push on with developing a pizza product.

Before long, Gianpiero and Cliona were selling pizzas at a stall at the Dublin Food Coop Market, while Cliona’s mother persuaded some shops to stock the sourdough pizza bases which Gianpiero had perfected. Fast forward to 2022 and the Artisan Pizza Company now produces over 8,000 bases a day at its premises in Greenogue Business Park in Rathcoole. Their bases can be found under the brand Pizza da Piero in the chilled aisle at all the major retail chains in Ireland – Dunnes, Supervalu, Tesco – and a range of quality independent food retail outlets.

The journey from those humble beginnings to employing 18 people in Rathcoole is marked by a healthy mix of determination, commitment, investment and good luck!

Chance Encounters

After operating largely from home, in 2007 the team secured a 25sqm kitchen in the very supportive environment of Spade Enterprise Centre in Dublin 7, a space which they outgrew within two years. By pure chance, Cliona and Gianpiero happened to get chatting to a butcher in Rathmines who had that very day completed the fit-out of a dedicated food production unit which he hoped to let out – a real stroke of good luck!

The same butcher also introduced Cliona and Gianpiero to an established food distribution company who rapidly secured a range of new outlets for the pizza bases, such as Fallon & Byrne, a range of speciality food stores, then Supervalu.

By 2014, with demand growing steadily, the company purchased its own premises in Rathcoole, providing a platform for further expansion.  

Recipe for Success

Both Gianpiero and Cliona highlight remaining true to the artisan qualities of their bases as being crucial to their success. It is those qualities that have made thousands of customers buy their product time and time again. Ramping up production while maintaining that artisan dimension has meant investing heavily and repeatedly in bespoke equipment. The company consistently reinvests 20% of annual turnover in boosting its own production capacity.

Gianpiero and Cliona know that ultimately its people, as opposed to machines, that will ensure the ongoing success of the business. They believe strongly in supporting the development of their team in areas as wide as English language skills to production techniques through courses offered by organisations such as the LEO, Solas and the Education & Training Board.


Supports along the Way   

Cliona and Gianpiero have accessed a range of supports from LEO South Dublin including training, mentoring, networking and a Business Expansion Grant that helped them build out their team. In 2020, they won the Enterprise of the Year Award for the Dublin Region at the National Enterprise Awards.

Yet, Cliona – a teacher by profession, with no business background - still thinks back to how nervous she was when she first met with the team from the LEO. With the benefit of hindsight, she would encourage anyone with even a vague notion of starting up to take that first step and engage with the Local Enterprise Office: ‘When we made that first call, we could never have imagined that things would progress to our current scale. The journey has been frightening at times, but the LEO has been a hugely supportive partner all the way. Our turnover has increased by over €1m since we first accessed LEO supports.’

‘The Lean for Micro programme gave us a new perspective from which to examine our operations - this was a new angle for us and included reviewing existing processes, identifying cost saving measures and improving profitability. The mentor we accessed through our LEO office was able to work with great flexibility and the programme itself brought approximate overall sales increase of 20% with no rise in costs.’

What’s Next for Pizza da Piero?

Given its scale, Pizza da Piero graduated in 2021 to become a client of Enterprise Ireland and is increasingly turning its attention to export markets – the UK and Benelux initially. The company has just made its largest investment yet in a production line that will allow the team to make enough bases and complementary products to serve these new international markets. Maybe one day they’ll sell pizza bases to the Italians!

Find out more about Pizza da Piero HERE