A woman born and raised in Dayton is rapidly making a name for herself in New York City’s prestigious pizza industry — and even though her pies taste like a million bucks, some don’t cost a dime.
Miriam Weiskind is a professional pizza enthusiast, pizza tour guide and established pizzaiola with Big-Apple-sized dreams for the future. She was the subject of a VICE “Munchies” documentary in November, and earlier this month, made Kelly Clarkson tear up on the singer’s self-titled talk show.
“Slice to meet you!” is Weiskind’s go-to greeting, and she means it. The daughter of the late long-time Daytonian Hyla Weiskind, Miriam now carries-on her mother’s love through baking big flavors in her tiny kitchen in New York.
On Aug. 21, 2020, Weiskind’s mother Hyla died of COVID-19. Her obituary in the Dayton Jewish Observer said, “Friends say this about her: ‘She was an Angel,’ ‘A Gift,’ and ‘She never met a stranger.’”
Six months later, thousands of pizzas have been made from scratch inside the confines of her daughter Miriam’s one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. The waitlist for New Yorkers to get their hands on one of Miriam Weiskind’s pies is between a few weeks to two months long.
At the start of the pandemic, after Weiskind was furloughed from her pizza apprenticeship and her gig as a pizza tour guide, she had a choice to make between sulking in her apartment or using the opportunity for good.
“If they don’t have a job, it’s free. If they’re a first responder, it’s free. If they’re just sad and having a really tough time in life, it’s free. … That really just pays tribute to my mom and her memory. It’s what my mom would have done,” Weiskind said.
Before long, word spread through Brooklyn’s streets, and people began donating money for pizza supplies. Now, her donation-based system has blossomed and is a source of comfort and hope for her Brooklyn community that’s been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you could measure happiness in money, I think I’m probably the wealthiest pizza baker in the entire world,” Weiskind told VICE.
The only person in the world Weiskind said she wished could have tried her “apartment” pizza was her mom, who had her own streak of generosity. Leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Hyla Weiskind would drive around Dayton to give away 200 bottles of honey “so that everyone she knew could start-off with a sweet new year,” her daughter said.
“I kind of feel like I am my mother, because I’m taking pizza, and I’m using it to help make life easier and brighter,” Weiskind told VICE.
On the inside of every box, Weiskind writes “For mom” with a heart.
In the VICE documentary, Weiskind recalled her own birth story in Dayton. Hyla Weiskind was in labor for so long that Miriam’s father and her mother’s doctor ordered pizza. From the start, Weiskind said, she was born into the world of pizza — and from there, the love affair never ended.
Weiskind grew up in Clayton. The 1999 Northmont High School graduate studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati before moving to New York City on a coin toss with just $600 in her pocket. The 2004 college graduate had a job offer in both San Francisco and in New York City, but as the coin flip would have it, Weiskind was bound for the Big Apple.
“This is where I’m supposed to be, like without question,” Weiskind said. “And one thing that’s really interesting, I don’t know if it’s just the Jewish community in Dayton or Daytonians in general … but I didn’t know anybody initially when I came here, but whatever Dayton people are in New York City, we all tend to connect. There’s always this tight-knit group of people” from Dayton who find one another and band together, she said.
Upon moving to the city, Weiskind even found a roommate from Dayton, her older brother’s friend whom she’d never met.
She spent the next 14 years in a successful career as a freelance art director before making the difficult decision in January 2020 to finally pursue her biggest passion. Before the pandemic, Weiskind led corporate pizza tours and became a pizzaiola at the world-renowned Paulie Gee’s pizzeria.
“There’s so much that goes into it that people do not know, especially if you’re making small-batch pies like I am,” Weiskind said. “That pizza that somebody’s going to order starts being made three days before they pick it up.”
Weiskind said becoming an expert on all things pizza made her all the more sentimental for her favorite hometown pizza — from Marion’s Piazza.
“The only way I can get Marion’s is if somebody decides to ship them to me,” Weiskind said. “So I’ve actually been working to try and recreate it. Even the ingredients they use are the best ingredients you can be putting on pizza. I had no idea.”
While Daytonians might not have easy access to Weiskind’s pies, people can watch the chef bake her pies live on Instagram on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on @thezareport’s “Live at 5.″
The next step in her career is to move in to a commercial space in Brooklyn, where Weiskind plans to sell her pies from a walk-up window. She plans to continue providing charity for the community through fundraising and “pizza-education classes” while growing her pizza legacy, she said.
“I guess nobody expected a girl from Dayton, Ohio to be one of the most sought-out pizza makers in New York City,” Weiskind said.