Photo Credit: IBRIS Focacce e Pizze | Facebook
IBRIS: The Black-Owned Pizza Shop In Italy Recognized As Top 50 In The World
The face of one of Italy’s top 50 pizzerias may be what you least expect. Ibrahim Songne, an immigrant from Burkina Faso, is the chef and founder of IBRIS— a Black-owned pizza shop in Italy recently ranked one of the top 50 in the world.
50TOPPIZZA.IT – an important online guide for Italy – says Ibrahim’s dough is “perfectly leavened, digestible, and the toppings are rich and delicious.” The guide also describes his recipes as “imaginative.”
It’s quite the accomplishment for a man who wasn’t fond of pizza at first. He tried it for the first time at the age of 12 after immigrating to Italy from his home.
“I’d never even heard of pizza before I arrived in Italy. I took a bite and found it gross and completely tasteless,” he told NPR during an interview about his pizza experience.
The recognition is also validation for the people who doubted that a Black man in Italy would have success running a pizza shop.
“A Black man behind the counter will drive every customer away,” he recalls being told.
But Ibrahim believed in himself and the dream of one day opening a restaurant.
His Recipe For Success
IBRIS Pizza – a name that combines the owner’s first and last name – is known for taking risks with flavors. Songne’s approach is experimental. He uses Italy’s zero-kilometer food movement, which means sourcing a majority of ingredients locally and fresh with whatever crops the season brings.
While the menu changes from day to day at the Black-owned pizza shop, some ingredient highlights are purple-potato cream, saffron, and chickpeas.
The confidence Songne has with taking risks with flavors comes from overcoming so much. When he moved from Burkina Faso, he had to readjust his way of life, including with the people around him.
He went from being surrounded by people that looked like him to being the only Black person in his class in Italy. He felt isolated – emotions he says were only exasperated by stuttering.
But he didn’t let his problems with speaking get him down. He decided to go to speech therapy, which gave him enough confidence to work part-time as a teenager. This determination created a lane for him to work in a pastry shop, where he developed a love for baking, and eventually became the framework for his love for baking pizza.
“Once I’d overcome my stuttering, I was free. After that, I knew I could face anything.”
Since opening in 2018, IBRIS has become a beloved pizzeria in the northern city of Italy that reaches beyond getting a good slice of pizza. It’s also about Songne’s infectious smile and commitment to helping those less fortunate.
He has adopted what he calls the “suspended pizza” model – a play off the Neapolitan tradition of caffè sospeso where the clients pay a little more for their coffee. The idea is that if so many people donate or “round up” then there is enough to feed those in need later.
For more information, including the hours and directions, follow IBRIS on Instagram.