Story and photos by Nancy McGuire.
As the current owner of seven dogs, give or take one or two, Jay has had a lifelong love for his four-legged companions. Upon moving to Dallas, Jay named his first dog, a Vizsla, Cane Rosso (which means “red dog” in Italian), and set off on a quest to build a local pizza empire and rescue dogs at the same time.
On his honeymoon to Italy, Jay got his inspiration to bring authentic Neapolitan-style pizza to DFW. He trained at the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), an organization that promotes and protects this traditional style and learned his craft from Master Pizzaiolos.
Upon return home, Jay had a wood-burning oven, the same as he used in Italy, built in his backyard. First perfecting his skills for family and friends, Jay then started a mobile catering service, taking his authentic stove and ingredients on the road. He built a loyal following and thus decided to open his first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Deep Ellum in 2011.
“That gave me the courage to get increasingly crazy and think I could do it for a living,” Jay explains.
Cane Rosso has received broad recognition and acclaim, both locally and nationally, for its Neapolitan-style pizza, having won numerous awards, including being named “Best Pizza in Dallas” by D Magazine for many years as well as receiving honors from the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Observer.
Guy Fieri, chef and host of the wildly popular Food Network series “Diners, Drive-In and Dives,” even paid Cane Rosso and Jay a visit. That honor, along with being named to Eater National’s 38 Essential Pizzerias in America and The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Pizza Places in America, has cemented Cane Rosso’s reputation as one the nation’s best.
With this success, Jay has opened six more Cane Rosso establishments in DFW and Houston and has started two other pizza concepts, Zoli’s New York-style pizza as well as Thunderbirds, an ohmage to the style commonly found in Detroit.
Jay’s passion for pizza can only be matched by his passion for saving dogs. On trips to East Texas, Jay noticed the problem of hunting-bred dogs being dumped in the deep woods. Deemed “not suitable” for hunting by breeders and trainers, these dogs are routinely set free to fend for themselves. It is a widely acknowledged problem by rescue groups and county animal services agencies.
And so it began. Jay rescued his first dog in 2014. A quote by the famous comedienne Lily Tomlin became his mantra when it comes to his dog rescue efforts: ”I said somebody should do something about that. Then I realized I am somebody.”
Jay says his epiphany came when he realized, “I am that somebody.” Soon after that first rescue, Jay become enmeshed in the dog rescue world.
Originally starting as a foster placement organization for rescued animals, Jay then acquired a piece of land in Carrollton, just across I-35 from his restaurant, to build a rescue facility and create a formal organization named after his first pup, Cane Rosso Rescue (CRR).
Under the direction of dedicated staff and a cadre of volunteers, the facility serves as the intake center where dogs are evaluated for their medical needs and behavioral traits. Although they house many dogs at the center, the staff still uses a wide network of fosters, hoping to move dogs to environments that will help socialize them, giving them time to decompress and thus becoming more suitable for adoption.
Each month, a portion of restaurant sales from each of his establishments is donated back to help cover the rescue’s operational costs. In addition, many of the restaurant’s patios become staging sites for adoption events and events like “Pics with Santa.”
Cane Rosso Rescue believes strongly in working with other rescue operations and invites these groups to bring their pups to participate, too.
One sweet rescue named Moo spent almost 600 days in the rescue facility before he was finally adopted. On that day, volunteers and staff held a big celebration for Moo’s send-off to his adopted home. Stories such as this validate for Jay that the rescue he started saves the world, one dog at a time.
Other local businesses have recognized the value of “doing good business” by encouraging their employees to volunteer their time and making donations to CRR. This support is integral to the facility’s bottom line.
A large group of employees from Baker Tilley, LLP regularly spend time walking and playing with the dogs, making repairs around the kennels, and working the adoption events. One employee even adopted a CRR dog named Lulu. Lulu was eventually trained as a therapy dog. Southern Land Company is another example of a local business contributing to the betterment of their community. They recently contributed the funds and manpower to remodel CRR’s lobby.
With a heart as big as his pizza ovens, Jay has successfully blended his passion for crafting delectable pizzas with a profound love for man’s best friend. Although Jay’s passion for dogs is personal, he recognizes that his passion is also good for his business and can be a contagious example to others.
If you want to adopt or volunteer with dogs, please check out Cane Rosso Rescue. And if you are hankering for great pizza, please visit one of Jay’s many restaurants, knowing a portion of the money you spend is doing good for dogs looking for their forever homes.
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Do you know of a business that’s doing good? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.