Good Pizza founder Ben Berman does not run a typical pizza place, but the graduate student hopes it can bring some joy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I realized I could make people smile by dropping slices of pizza out my window, and that was really the original idea,” he told “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Michelle Miller.
The Philadelphia-based pizza maker has been dishing out free pies from his single bedroom apartment since March.
He said he spends three days making pizza dough, mixing up a “big batch in the first day” before rolling it into balls and leaving it to chill in the refrigerator.
On day two, Berman said he makes the sauce and gathers his ingredients.
“And then the day of the actual pizza drop, people who have won the ‘lottery’ to come get a pizza come outside my window,” he said.
The lucky winners of his pizza lottery then give Berman a call outside his window, and the pizza is lowered down to them via a pulley system out of his second-story window.
In return, the grad student only asks for charitable donations — so far raising $30,000.
“Donations that have come in through people from all over the world, people without any expectation of ever trying pizza,” Berman said. “Anyone that donates to us, 100% of what they give is being given away.”
He has now made more than 500 pies, and gives the profits to groups like Philabundance and Project Home, which fight against homelessness and hunger.
The 27-year-old Maine native is currently working toward his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania, but food has always had a powerful influence on him.
“I don’t have many large family memories that aren’t centered around food. It just has been a big part of my life,” he said.
And at the end of the day, Berman said, Good Pizza began as an opportunity for him to stay connected with his friends through the pandemic.
He also saw the devastating impact of the pandemic firsthand.
“I lost my grandmother to COVID in April and it was a really hard month. My grandfather also had it and also spent a few weeks in the hospital,” he said. “I don’t want other people to go through that, it was harder than I think anyone can imagine.”
Many people who have come into contact with Berman and his pizza service have appreciated the sincerity of what he is doing — including Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy, whose pizza reviews have a massive online following and rack up hundreds of thousands of views.
Berman said the 24 hours following Portnoy’s review were “crazy.”
“I went from 150 followers on Instagram to over 10,000,” Berman said. “I’m really thankful for that platform. It helped us raise close to $15,000 in that very first weekend and it really started to open some doors.”
Berman is also thankful for the opportunities Good Pizza has brought him, like the ability to “connect with people a little bit, even if it’s over virtual platforms.”
In the end, Berman shared a message of hope for a nation gripped by the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel now,” he said. “And if I can bring a little bit of joy in those last few months, that means the world to me.”