Mozzeria, the famed pizzeria on 16th Street owned and operated by deaf people, closed just under a month before its ninth anniversary. 

While many or most of the restaurant’s customers were not deaf, the space, fully staffed with servers fluent in American Sign Language, was a place of respite for deaf people from a restaurant scene that can often be unaccommodating. 

The company attributed its closure to two factors — the Covid-19 pandemic, and city-mandated earthquake safety retrofitting — in a Nov. 12 Instagram post announcing the decision. 

Seismic retrofitting, ordered as part of San Francisco’s Mandatory Soft-Story Program, was also a catalyst for Burger Joint owner Nidal Nazzal’s decision to close his decades-old business at the beginning of this year. 

“The restaurant meant a lot to me,” said Sandra Ammons, a long-time friend of Mozzeria owners Melody and Russ Stein.

Ammons recalled attending the restaurant’s opening rehearsal in 2011, three days before the official opening. 

“They turned it into a fundraiser for our California School for the Deaf,” Ammons said.

On its Instagram account, the owners seemed upbeat: 

“The good news is that Mozzeria will continue serving the community through our successful food truck,” the company announced. 

The Mozzeria food truck, which has scheduled appearances throughout the Bay Area for the rest of the year, promises to reach a wider audience than the restaurant. Regular appearances are scheduled at Fort Mason, San Francisco International Airport, down through the Peninsula and. The day after Christmas, the truck will in Livermore, at the Three Steves Winery.

The truck is also better suited to serve audiences outdoors, a major advantage during the Covid-19 pandemic. The restaurant’s long, narrow interior would have made it impossible for patrons to socially distance while moving in and out of the space. 

Mozzeria also lives on through a new Washington, D.C., location, which opened over Labor Day weekend. Ten days before Mozzeria announced its closure in San Francisco, the documentary series ReOpen published an episode focusing on the new D.C. restaurant. 

“Deaf talent has always been there, there’s just not opportunities,” said Ryan Maliszewski, Mozzeria’s CEO, in the short documentary, “So here, we create opportunities.”

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Juan Carlos Lara covers business and development in the Mission. Juan Carlos, a San Francisco State alum, is as much a photographer as he is a writer and previously worked as the campus news editor at Golden Gate Xpress, SF State’s student paper.

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  1. So sad. We had planned on having neopolitan at Mozzeria a couple of years ago, and as we were walking up to it, a charter bus pulled up in front. Out of the bus poured several dozen deaf people. With a smile on our faces, we decided to dine elsewhere in the neighborhood.

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