DELIVERING delicious traditional pizzas to villages with his mobile wood-fired pizza cart, a former prison guard inspires people with invisible diseases to see life in a different way.
Owner of Taste of Naples Pizzeria, Darren Brooks, 36, from Sible Hedingham, decided to pursue his pizza dream after falling in love with Naples during a weekend in Italy.
“You can’t beat the pizzas there,” he said.
“I completely fell in love with the culture, the food and decided to buy a portable pizza oven for myself and my children when I returned.”
Trying to keep the experience as authentic as possible, Mr. Brooks offers a traditional menu and implores people to try his favorite, the marinara – a Neapolitan pizza without cheese.
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“The way the pizza steams and smells good when you take it out of the oven – I would ask 100 cents for people to give it a chance,” he said.
Two of his children, Joshua, 13, and Ava, 11, also like to help out when they can, taking orders and talking to customers, and Mr Brooks’ second youngest, Leo, six, has already started to help by delivering pizzas to the tables.
However, the road to launching its dream mobile pizza pop-ups hasn’t been easy.
In the summer of 2016, Mr Brooks had a flare-up of abdominal pain and was hospitalized for a long time.
After many different treatments, he eventually had to have his large intestine removed and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
The day after his operation, he was rushed to intensive care and his parents were told he was “touch and go”.
“It was really intimidating,” Mr Brooks said.
“Once I was well enough I went back to work at Warren Hill Prison, but found it was affecting my mental health.”
Deciding to leave after 10 years of prison service was an incredibly difficult decision, but one he certainly does not regret.
“A lot of people think having an ileostomy stops you from doing anything,” he said.
“But for me, this bag gave me life because it allowed me to leave the house.
“With my business, I try to show people with invisible diseases that they see life in a different way.
“We can still achieve things and for me it was taking a risk and starting the Taste of Naples pizzeria.”