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Lifelong friends launch 90-second gourmet pizzeria in Carlsbad

Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad
Naples-style pizzas are prepared at newly opened Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad.
(Courtesy photo)

Self-trained Chinese-Canadian chef and business partner helm Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Bressi Ranch

Back in the early 1980s, Walter Wong and Steven Seminara met on the Jersey Shore. Both 17 at the time, they formed a fast friendship while working together in a retail store.

Although their lives would take them in separate career and geographical directions, the Montreal-born Wong and New York native Seminara re-teamed in the 1990s as business partners in a trio of La Jolla boutiques. Now, both 53, the men are now neighbors, living just nine houses apart on the same Carlsbad street and, once again, they’ve gone into business together.

On Jan. 23, they opened Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad’s Bressi Ranch. Wong is the executive chef and onsite manager at the fast-casual Italian/Mediterranean restaurant. Seminara designed the hip 70-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant and, as sommelier, curated its list of Italian, French and Spanish wines.

The restaurant’s menu features appetizers, salads, pastas, entrees and desserts, but its signature item is Naples-style pizzas, which cook in just 90 seconds in a custom-made, 725-degree Marra Forni brick revolving oven. The restaurant’s name, Del Lusso, is Italian for “of luxury,” because Wong said he sources the most authentic ingredients from Italy, including Caputo Blue 00 flour, tomatoes from the Campania region and olive oil, cheeses and cured meats.

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Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad
The dining room at Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad.
(Pam Kragen / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Wong said he and Seminara have complementary skills and the same goals for their neighborhood restaurant, which is next door to the Eureka! restaurant at the corner of Palomar Airport Road and Innovation Way.

“The traits we share are making sure that we always focus on the customer first and creating the best dining experience with a high level of service and attention,” Wong said.

A child of Chinese immigrants, Wong is a self-trained chef who learned how to cook from his mom. He grew up in an ethnically mixed neighborhood of Montreal around Italians, Greeks, French and Arabs, so from a young age he developed a passion for Mediterranean cuisine. Among friends and family, he’s known for his dinner parties. All of the plated dishes on the menu at Del Lusso are his own recipes, including his signature dish, the spaghetti carbonara, made with smoked pancetta, San Marzano tomatoes, Calabrian chili flakes and cream.

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But to learn the authentic technique for making Neopolitan pizza, Wong and Seminara brought in a pizza consultant. Chicago pizza chef Gianni Gallucci won first place in the Neopolitan division at the 2017 Caputo Cup Championship, one of the largest pizza competitions in the U.S. Gallucci spent two weeks at Del Lusso in November training the kitchen team on proper dough, sauce and cooking techniques.

“We were making 300 pies a day when we were training because it was so important to us to get things right,” Wong said.

Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad
Walter Wong, third from right, with his culinary team at Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad.
(Courtesy photo)

Except for the baguettes purchased from Carlsbad’s Prager Brothers bakery, everything is made inhouse, including the sausage and desserts. The menu offers starters, salads and pastas in individual and family-size portions. There are nine red sauce and nine white pizzas. Wong’s favorite pizza is the spicy Fabri Fibra, named after the well-known Italian rapper, who is a personal friend. The 12-inch made-to-order pizzas range in price from $14 to $20. Entrees, including chicken Milanese and roast pork, are $12 to $15. There’s also a kid’s menu. The 2,100-square-foot restaurant has 70 seats, including a large dog-friendly patio.

Del Lusso is the first restaurant venture for Wong and Seminara.

After finishing college, Wong wanted to escape the Canadian cold so he moved to Key West, Fla., and opened a retail shop. Then he moved to La Jolla in 1992. After closing the shops he owned with Seminara, he and two partners started the mobility software company eMOBUS in 2014. They sold it in 2017 to Marlin Equity Partners and Wong and his wife spent some time traveling in semi-retirement. When he got bored, they moved to Carlsbad’s Rancho Carrillo neighborhood, where Seminara also moved.

Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad
Fresh-baked pizzas at Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad.
(Courtesy photo)

Seminara has spent much of his career in the lifestyle, sportswear and action sports clothing industries. He also owned a nightclub in New York and operated vacation rental properties in the Dominican Republic. He’s now international sales manager for Goskate, which provides skateboarding lessons and training events in all 50 states.

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Wong said the reason he and Seminara decided to open their own restaurant was because they couldn’t find the kind of food they liked in the Carlsbad area.

“I was looking for a Mediterranean restaurant with fresh ingredients, a farm-to-table concept with the best cheeses, meats, flour and produce I could find,” Wong said.

Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays. 11 a.. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Where: 6021 Innovation Way, Sutie 120, Carlsbad

Phone: (760) 8531-0097

Online: dellussopizza.com

Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad
The patio seating area at Del Lusso Napoletana Pizzeria in Carlsbad.
(Pam Kragen / The San Diego Union-Tribune)


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