Mast’s Salvatore de Rosa is a True Pizza Artist

The renowned chef has the ability to paint portraits through the medium of pizza.

Photos provided

Photos provided

Last week, Mast in Downtown Crossing finally opened after months of construction delays, but it’s not the Neapolitan street food, braised meats, or house-made pastas that are drawing the most attention. That would be the portraits of celebrities like George Clooney, Rihanna, and the Red Sox’s Mike Napoli, painted in brushstrokes of mozzarella and marinara, on a canvas of blistered pizza dough.

Owner Marco Caputo calls chef Salvatore de Rosa his “pizza master.” And that’s not only because of his way with the Southern Italian restaurant’s 900-degree Neapolitan oven. Since age 12, De Rosa has been training at pizzerias across Naples learning the niche art of painting portraits with nothing but the raw ingredients of cheese, sauce, and dough.

“Salvatore started when he was very, very young,” Caputo says. “He was 12 when he started working in a pizza place in Naples. I grew up with his his younger brothers, so I remembered when he started. Even when he was young, he was one of the greatest pizza artists I ever saw. I was always hoping to get him over here. Several times I offered him a job and finally, when he told me he was leaving his job in Barcelona, I said, ‘I want you here in Boston.'”

A former student, and eventually a teacher, at the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) in Naples, De Rosa has now traveled the globe practicing his particular craft. But now—due to his childhood friend’s coercion—he’s a full-time chef at Mast’, making pizza portraits for star guests like Federico Castelluccio, who played Furio on The Sopranos. 

So, can anybody walk in on off the streets have their likeness depicted in tomato sauce? Sadly, no. But Caputo says that the restaurant will make exceptions for special occasions and if given enough time.

“If I ask him, he’ll do it,” Caputo says. “And he can do anybody. If I give him a picture of somebody, he can do it. He made a Mona Lisa with pizza. In the past he’s done Rihanna and Sophia Loren. He’s an amazing artist.”

45 Province St., Boston;