When Daniel Tauro arrived from Puebla, Mexico, in 2007 at age 16, instead of enrolling in high school he immediately got a job as a dishwasher, working at various New York City restaurants. He found the work monotonous and uninspiring — until he began working at a pizzeria. The playful dough toss and smell of a pizza sizzling inside of a wood-fired oven captured his attention — and senses. He wanted to learn how a NYC pizza was made.
The Lower East Side pizzeria where worked served more than 700 pizzas a day, and Tauro was mesmerized by the way the chefs could turn a ball of white dough into a picture-perfect pizza in just minutes. He worked as a busboy until one day several of the pizza makers had an argument with the restaurant owner and quit. Desperate for help, the owner turned to Tauro and asked if he could take over. The rest, as they say, is history.
As his passion for pizza making grew, in 2019, Tauro bought a wood-fired pizza oven. But he didn’t quite know what to do with it, until the pandemic shut down the restaurant where he was working.
“I knew before the pandemic that I wanted to start my own business,” Tauro, now 30, says. “The pandemic gave me the opportunity because when they closed down the restaurant and I had bills to pay and family to take care of in Mexico, so I used my equipment to work instead.”
Tauro began selling fresh, ready-to-eat pizza on the corner of 111 Street and 39th Avenue in Corona, Queens, and thus Tauro Wood Fired Pizza was born. Now, Tauro works two jobs — he makes pizza at an Italian restaurant in Williamsburg and sells his own pizza Thursday through Sunday in the evenings.
“All of my pizzas are unique because they include a mix of three flours, two flours are Italian and another is American,” he says. “I also make sure to use good-quality tomatoes, I use canned San Marzano tomatoes and mix them with fresh ones to give it a different flavor.”
Tauro currently sells five kinds of personal pizzas and two calzones, each costing $12. There’s the typical options of margherita, pepperoni and Hawaiian, plus a veggies option, the ortolano, which comes topped with fresh mozzarella, mushroom, pumpkin and basil. His most popular pizza though, is the Mexican. It’s a red pizza with fresh mozzarella, spicy sausage, jalapeño, onion and basil. The wood-fired oven makes the crust crispy and lends a smoky flavor to the toppings. For dessert, there’s a calzone oozing with Nutella, ricotta and fresh strawberries.
Daniela Inao, 29, is one of Tauro’s repeat customers.
“I always order the ortolano pizza because it has vegetables and I don’t eat meat. These pizzas are very fresh, he cooks it with wood and it tastes very good,” she says. “I would tell people to come because the pizzas are handmade and most importantly you can see them being made, you can see what ingredients he uses.”
Fransico Tecaxco, 26, is another frequent customer.
“I come here because the pizzas are very delicious. In other pizzerias in the area, you can only taste the cheese and tomato sauce, but in these pizzas, the dough has a different taste,” he says. “It’s important to support street vendors, they’re essential to my community.”
Life as a street vendor isn’t easy. There have been days where Tauro simply cannot sell pizza due to inclement weather. He also used to be worried about getting harassed by police officers as other street vendors have because he doesn’t have a license, but most of the officers in the neighborhood have become his customers.
“One day a police officer was looking for me [and I got scared] but then he said ‘I came looking for you because others at the precinct have been talking about you and I came to try your pizza,’” Tauro recalls. “He tried it and liked it, he’s been my customer ever since.”
Tauro, like many street vendors, hasn’t been able to obtain a general vendor license. He hopes to transition his business into a food truck in the future. Getting a street-vending license in NYC is notoriously hard. Currently, there are only 853 General Vendor licenses in circulation in the city, and the waitlist to get one tops 12,000. For now, Tauro is grateful for what he has.
“I’m still thinking about having a legitimate business,” he says. “Because I came to this country to be successful, not stay the same. In Mexico I was born in extreme poverty, so I always always have that in mind.
Tauro Wood Fired Pizza is open Thursday to Sunday from 6 to 11 p.m. at the corner of 111 Street and 39th Avenue in Corona, Queens.