Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria, an award-winning Italian eatery with three locations, based in St. Louis Missouri, announced today the debut of its artisan frozen pizza and pasta line at Natural Products Expo West, Booth 2314 in the North Hall. Katie’s frozen pizza line was spurred by a radical business pivot when COVID shut down her restaurants in March 2020.
As many restaurant owners experienced firsthand, the COVID-19 pandemic sent Lee’s thriving restaurant business into a downward spiral. Recognizing the need to pivot, she brought her cherished authentic Italian recipes out of the kitchen and straight to people’s homes. Lee transformed her dining room into an assembly line to produce her famous hand-stretched, wood-fired pizzas and it became an instant success.
“In the first six weeks, we sold 50K pizzas and by the end of the first year, we topped over $2M in sales. I realized I had a hit and a totally new viable business model,” said Katie Lee, founder of Katie’s Pizza and Pasta Osteria. “When reflecting on the last few years and the hurdles we’ve overcome as a company, I feel incredibly proud. To be able to keep our employees and communities supported and nourished continues to be a driving force behind our business."
"I look forward to the momentum we’ll continue to build around authentic, artisan food through this next venture,” Lee says.
Expanding into the frozen aisle proved to be a thriving business opportunity for Lee who has seen over $2M in frozen pizza sales to date. While the opportunity may have been born out of a pandemic-induced need, sales show no sign of slowing. The company is currently signed on with major distributors such as KeHE and UNFI and in retail outlets such as Fresh Market, Mothers, Fresh Thyme, the legendary Kings/Balducci's in NYC, and some regional Whole Foods Markets. It is also in negotiations with many natural and conventional retailers.
While the spike in frozen food purchasing has leveled out since the pandemic, millennials continue to drive growth in the category with a growing preference for meals made with premium ingredients. As such, Lee is well-positioned to continue to grow her distribution footprint and plans to seek out new partnerships at this year’s Expo West conference.
Lee’s passion for pizza was born from the joint venture she started with her father when they opened the original Katie’s Pizza in 2008. Over the next 10 years, Lee went on to open two additional Katie's Pizza & Pasta Osteria locations with her husband where the duo began to specialize in modern Italian cuisine that celebrates local and seasonal ingredients. The secret to her prize-winning pizzas is no hold barred ingredients such as locally-milled semolina and durum flour, San Marzano tomatoes, burrata and Fontina cheese, black garlic, truffles, and the finest Italian prosciutto. The Lee family quickly garnered a loyal community of families and pizza enthusiasts, gaining recognition in and around St. Louis and now with the frozen offerings, nationwide. Lee has received consecutively eight Pizza of the Year awards and seven Chef of the Year awards.
Katie’s track record of recognition and triumph has not been without struggle. Not only did Lee weather a pandemic, but she also overcame her own personal struggles with addiction and homelessness in the years leading up to her entrepreneurial endeavors. Lee has stayed resilient in her recovery and now uses her business model to give back and support her community. Once a month for nearly 9 years now, the company hosts a Giveback Tuesday program in which it selects a local charity to donate 100% of their proceeds. This program has totaled roughly $350,000 in donations to date.