Fake it till you make it is what they always say. For Caroline D’Amore, “faking it” just for one night started her successful DJ-ing career, and the rest is history. Caroline, aka Pizza Girl, talks about how she went from DJ-ing to launching her own organic food products. Her life journey proves that confidence and perseverance can take you far into the realization of your dreams, and even take you into surprising turns that go full circle into your inherent desires. Learn about pursuing your passion and balancing family life from this inspirational episode.
Listen to the podcast here:
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Caroline D’Amore Shares Her Life Journey DJ-ing Internationally + Starting Pizza Girl
We have Caroline D’Amore with us. She’s a DJ, model, actress, singer and an amazing mamapreneur. Her family owns the restaurant, D’Amore’s Famous Pizza here in LA and they have locations all over Malibu, Tarzana, Westwood and so many more all over California. She’s also the Creator of the famous Pizza Girl sauces, which we actually cooked with. She made a chicken ziti and it was delicious. We used her marinara sauce and I can’t wait for you to actually shop her page. She has vodka sauce.
We have marinara, we have a puttanesca. We finished our formulation on the arrabiata and we’re going to keep on rolling out these delicious organic products.
Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.
Thank you for being here. I wanted to get this going with you. I wanted to talk about your life, Pizza Girl and all the amazing things you’ve done and are doing. You come from a celebrity circle. You grew up with celebrities. Talk to me about that. What was life like?
I grew up in Malibu and people hear that and they’re like, “You were some rich socialite.” I’m like, “How?” My dad is the pizza man, first of all. When I wanted enough money to go to the club or something crazy that night, I delivered pizzas. I had to work. I was in this circle and I grew up with these girls that were more financially fortunate or famous than me and my family. It was a very interesting dynamic, but none of that matters when you’re all true friends. Everybody’s got your back. You become friends with who you become friends with.
It’s not just because of who they are. You’re friends with them because you’re friends.
Some of those things can actually turn you off from a friendship with somebody if they’re so into themselves or don’t have time to ask you how you’re doing.
A lot of people out there are stuck up celebrities. I don’t think you’d even be friends with them, to begin with.
Of course not. I’m sure you have all this information because you’ve Googled me and you can see tons of pictures of me and Paris Hilton all over the world. She is the kindest human that I’ve ever met. She is such a loving person. She’s always been there for me. I was actually her DJ on her Stars are Blind tour. When that record came out, we traveled all over the world together and I did all of her events.
You’ve been friends for how long?
She threw my eighteenth birthday party at her house. We’ve been friends for a long time, since I was fifteen.
That’s one thing people probably wouldn’t imagine, that Paris Hilton would be such a great friend or all these celebrity friends.
[bctt tweet=”People buy something when the label looks dope. If it’s good, they’ll buy it again.” username=””]
I think people like to hate and when somebody’s just so fabulous and on top of the world, they find things that are not cool about that person. The truth is if you looked or cared, you’d see the girl is literally the kindest person on the planet. You don’t even see that stuff.
Tell me how deejaying came to be.
Hence, the whole party girl club rat phase that I went through in my life. School wasn’t for me. Honestly, I felt uncomfortable and I didn’t have a clique. I was floating by friends with all the different groups. Maybe that’s the Gemini in me, but I didn’t have my thing in school. I wasn’t very good at school. I was terrible at math. Testing freaked me out. I dropped out. My last completed grade is ninth grade. We walked in one day and walked out and I was like, “I’m done.” I was in the club one night and DJ AM was deejaying. I literally saw the sky open and I was blown away by how he controlled the room and his energy made everybody else so happy. If you looked at him, he was joyous and it brought joy to me and everyone in the room.
Every night I was in the club, I ended up finding myself in the DJ booth with him watching what he was doing, being mesmerized. I did something a little stupid and I did accept a gig. I was acting at the time. When you’re in LA, you can try everything. A director called me and he was like, “Do you know any female DJs for this show I’m putting on at the El Rey Theater?” I fully lied. I said, “I’m a DJ.” He was like, “You’re hired.” I called up AM and I was like, “This is what I just did.” He was like, “You idiot. Come over and I’ll help you.” I spent every dollar that I had and scraped it together. I bought a brand new CDJs and a mixer and he gave me some pointers.
I was actually pretty terrible at my first gig. I was crashing and burning mixes and actually, Questlove came up to me while I was crashing and burning mixes. He goes, “Do you know why you’re good? You’re good because you’re confident as hell.” I was like, “I’m going to keep going with this.” I did get good and I signed to SKAM Artist. I got two record deals with Sony and Universal and I ended up touring the whole world, which was pretty rad. I think I was the first female to ever have a legit summer residency at the Hard Rock in Vegas. I broke a lot of boundaries.
How old were you?
I was young. When I started, I was seventeen and I was making enough money only deejaying two nights a week to pay for my own apartment, my own car. I was deejaying on Mondays and Tuesdays. Mondays was at Joseph’s, a super popular club back then. It was like The Boathouse club. Britney and Justin had their dance-off there, the funny 2005 eras. I was young. They were sneaking me in through the kitchen because I was underage. I got a fake ID and the rest is history.
Where was your favorite place that you did a tour? What was the most memorable place you’ve deejayed?
I loved being in Tokyo. I lived in Beijing during the whole Olympics. I deejayed all the Olympic parties. I was there for over a month. I got to stand on the pyramids thanks to deejaying. I was brought out to do a big Nikki Beach over in that area. I have to say, my last big adventure was in Mexico, and I headline there for 20,000 people. It was incredible. The funny thing is that my whole story comes full circle because I see in the crowd people holding up signs that said, “Pizza Girl.” That’s a nickname that I hated growing up. It was like, “The Pizza Girl is here.” That’s why I ran to deejaying. I was like, “I don’t want anything to do with this.” I started seeing Pizza Girl signs and I was like, “Screw it. I’m going to make shirts that say Pizza Girl and throw them into the crowd.” Me and my manager, Tom Hamilton, we spent the whole day spray painting shirts.
Paris Jackson was with us at that show. She was throwing them out into the crowd and it became a thing. I started developing these sauces. I have a four-year-old and I started cooking all the time, especially owning the restaurant, D’Amore’s, on 3rd. That’s the one that I operate. Everybody told me like, “You’re not going to get shelf space. You’re crazy. This is such a saturated market. How do you think you’re going to be able to do this?” What’s funny is I fully developed the entire thing myself with zero backing or funding in any way. I said, “Watch me.” I walked into Erewhon on Beverly with no meetings, nothing set up. I just walked in with the sauce and I said, “Who do I need to talk to? Who do I need to show this product to?” They literally pointed me in the right direction because Erewhon is still such a small market where you can find the people on site.
You could totally walk in and be like, “Where’s your manager? I want to talk to him.”
Vicky Osana gave me my first chance and she was just like, “This is amazing. You’re amazing. You’re clearly passionate about the project and about this product.” There weren’t many certified organic products. That process for me was so difficult. Most companies come in with millions of dollars of funding. They hire a company to do their organic certification. I had to do all of that myself because we didn’t have thousands of dollars to throw at it. Me and my assistant, Cara, who is my main girl, we did almost 600 pages of paperwork per skew. Every time you get an infraction, you get put to the back of the line unless you paid thousands of dollars. It was like pulling our hair out for six months trying to get that done. We got it done.
I almost was like, “Maybe I’ll just put out the sauce without the certification.” I was like, “No, I need that in this day and age. It’s certified organic. They are local ingredients. Why not get the love for it?” I went the extra mile. We did it. Erewhon said yes. Bristol Farms immediately gave us all seventeen locations once they tried it. What’s crazy is the guy who tried it and put it to the test, he’s the guy who developed the sauce for Bristol Farms brand. I was like, “He’s going to be so mean. He’s going to hate it.” He instantly loved it. He popped it open on his desk, pulled out a spoon. He was like, “This is fantastic.” We’re launching Amazon and we’re launching Gelson’s, all locations.
You said the marinara one is vegan. You have vegan alternatives.
We do. The marinara is vegan, the new arrabbiata is vegan. The puttanesca is vegan.
Do you come up with all the recipes yourself?
What’s it like? I’m a huge foodie. Do you write down the measurements? How do you do it? Tell your process.
I worked with food scientists. You have to when it comes to pH balance tests. In order to get our vodka sauce, that was a hard one because I think a lot of people think vodka sauce is just a pink sauce and you add some cream. That is not it. A traditional vodka sauce has real Italian seasoning. It’s so much more flavorful. We went through so many different versions and what I did was I took all the different versions into the D’Amore’s restaurants. I’m having customers try it, I’m having all the cooks try it. My dad’s putting it all to the test. We had, fortunately, hundreds of customers coming in that we’re able to be like, “This is amazing.”
What can we expect next from Pizza Girl?
Under the Pizza Girl name, I’m going to continue to do all of the sauces. Next is the arrabbiata, a pizza sauce and a pesto sauce and so on and so forth. I’m also going to dive into the frozen food section. I’m going to make sure that I get you guys an amazing pizza that’s actually organic and edible, which is hard to find in the frozen food section. We’re going to make sure I get you some delicious organic pastas, pasta alternatives. I want to do an Alfredo using coconut cream. I have a lot of delicious food products that I want to bring. Pizza Girl is going to do kitchenware. Pizza Girl is going to change the game.
We were talking about this and I cannot wait. Her style is so awesome. First of all, if you look at the packaging on Pizza Girl, I would be the first one to buy it because I love cute stuff. Cute stuff at the mall, it’s heard of. There’s cute stuff everywhere, but to buy food that’s cute.
Thank you for saying that because so many people told me that was such a risk. Do you know what I did? I snuck into the supermarket. Before I was in the supermarket, I put my sauce jars on the shelves just to make sure it looks sick. It pops off the shelves. They’ve done that and broken barriers in the wine world. Why do you buy wine? Because the label looks dope. If it’s good, you’ll buy it again.
It’s like Summer Water. It’s pink. It has that cute sticker on it. Trader Joe’s has the coolest wines. Honestly, the labels and packaging are so important and it matters.
In the Italian food world, it’s so old school that nobody’s done it yet. I’m definitely at the forefront of bringing cool branding, Millennial-women-run, inspirational, environmentally conscious products to everybody, so I’m so excited.
Your market is for the Millennial woman. I would grab that versus Bertolli because it’s cute. I go to the back and I read the ingredients. I’m like, “What? Organic? Check.”
[bctt tweet=”Life is short. You can’t just make it about the business.” username=””]
I have 65 milligrams of salt in my marinara. That is practically unheard of. We don’t add anything that doesn’t need to be added. It is low because we put a little bit of sea salt in that one. The puttanesca we do no salt because the kalamata olives and capers already bring that salty vibe. We don’t do a boring pasteurization process. We do a process called heat filling where we have to cook it in these huge vats. I think a lot of people don’t do that process anymore because it’s easier to scale when you have these machines that are doing it all for you. I plan on keeping that integrity because that’s why the sauce tastes so amazing. You cannot keep Pizza Girl on the shelves right now. I’m up at the factory with a hairnet trying to get it all done in time.
My dad used those. They’re huge pots and then they heat up from the bottom. He used that for his jams. We had a jam company and I know exactly what you’re talking about. We have a factory in Armenia and all those pots are everywhere. They mixed by hand with those huge spatulas. That’s where you get the flavor. It’s like cooking it in your kitchen, except it just happens to be a way larger tank.
I love that you know about that.
You’re right, people don’t do that anymore.
A lot of these companies truly are not about bringing the very best product possible to the customers. Me, that’s all I care about. I remember my grandmother does this funny thing where she would watch us take every bite of food because enjoying the food was her favorite thing ever. Now, I see myself doing that. When I’m in the market sampling, I’m personally in there giving out samples, letting everybody try it. I noticed myself doing the same face looking at the customer like, “What do you think?” It’s the dorkiest thing ever but that shows you how much I’m so dedicated and so passionate and I will never change my process. You know it here first.
Kudos to you. That’s incredible. I wish you the best of luck and success. You’re going to get there. We were talking about the cookware merch and she’s like, “I’m going to do it. Watch me.” I’m like, “You go, girl. You go, Glen Coco.” How do you balance all this with being a mom and a wife?
It’s not easy and obviously, I’m not going to lie and say that certain things don’t suffer. At times, my marriage definitely suffered. You do need to balance it all out better, not just talking about business all the time. I’m dedicating specific days and times to my daughter where I’m not on my phone where it’s very well thought out and very present. I need to do that for her. It’s hard. I balanced it out. Honestly, Cara, my assistant, literally on my schedule it says, “Mommy-daughter day.” We block them out where I’m like, “Do not call me because I’m in the pool with my kid.” That’s what works for me. I’m not going to change anything like, “I’m going to be with my kid on this day.” Every other day I’m fully engulfed in my business.
How do you turn the switch off? I find myself struggling with that because I’ll go to the office and I’ll work, but I come back with work on my mind.
I won’t lie, I have a glass of wine.
That’s great advice.
I’ll have a glass of wine and it all starts to go out the window. Massage, little me-time, maybe a facial. I try to unplug. Hiking helps. I haven’t been working out and I need to get back into it because I am such a happier person when I do.
I think a routine is important. I don’t have a steady routine and that’s why I get so overwhelmed so quickly.
You’re all over the place and you’re trying to keep up with your business. That will happen sometimes. Every day we’re adding new supermarkets. All of a sudden, we have to do launches more and more. I have heard that the business can start to control you. We have to be careful because life is short and we can’t just make it about the business.
That’s great advice. What’s next? What can we expect from Caroline?
I have a couple of television projects in the works, which I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but I’m excited.
Movies or TV?
A TV show. We don’t know where it’s going yet, but it’s with one of the most amazing producers and he’s extremely talented. He reached out to me and saw what was going on with Pizza Girl. He was like, “We should be doing a show about this. This is incredible and you’re so inspiring.” We have started filming and hopefully, I’ll have some news on that in the New Year. It’s going to be more inspiring and about start-up companies and the business. Hopefully, after my company’s fully afloat and takes off, then I’ll be able to help other start-up companies follow my footsteps. That’s my dream.
What do you want to do? Do you want to help invest or just mentor?
I want to do both. I’m going to find women-run food industry businesses.
I love women that have all this knowledge and experience and they want to share it. I don’t remember where I read this but it says, “When you keep climbing, you should take people with you.” If you’ve ever helped anybody, and I’m sure you have many times. The joy and gratitude you feel when they’re so thankful and that you’ve done something good for them, it’s unbeatable. Thank you so much, Caroline. Tell everyone where we can follow you.
Be sure to check out our YouTube segment with the chicken ziti. Thank you so much.
- D’Amore’s Famous Pizza
- Pizza Girl
- @CarolineDAmore – on Instagram
- @PizzaGirlOfficial – on Instagram
- YouTube Segment– Baked Chicken Ziti
About Caroline D’Amore
Pizza Girl is a high-end organic certified Italian sauce and pasta company created by Caroline D’Amore daughter of the D’Amore’s Pizza family.