For years, The Pizzeria in The Heights has been well-loved for its Neapolitan slices, extensive bar menu and prime location at the corner of Cantrell Road and Kavanaugh Boulevard. Longtime locals will remember its predecessor Terry’s Finer Foods, which evolved into its current incarnation over the past decade.
Those still imagining Terry’s, however, would be surprised to find The Pizzeria has now become a local powerhouse in the dessert department, thanks largely to the arrival of pastry chef Anna Chighizola. Her broadening of the restaurant’s sweet offerings helped mark a new era for the Heights stronghold, one that keeps confection-loving patrons coming back to taste the latest menu addition.
Soirée sat down with Chighizola to talk dream menus, family flavors and Little Rock’s unexpected restaurant scene.
What brought you to Little Rock, and how did you land at The Pizzeria?
AC: My husband, Hayden, started an internship at the VA hospital during the summer of 2021. He landed a job with the VA after his internship, and we decided to stay put in Little Rock. We love it and are excited to be here. I connected with Jacquelyn Compton, the owner of The Pizzeria, through the Little Rock Power Women Facebook group. I met her for an interview and started the next day. I have been so lucky to have creative freedom at The Pizzeria.
Much of your professional life has been spent in kitchens in the South. What did you bring with you from those experiences?
AC: I was born and raised in Louisiana, so I had to bring king cakes to Arkansas during Mardi Gras season! I make a traditional Louisiana-style king cake in an assortment of flavors. We have a take-home sweets counter at the restaurant that features grab-and-go desserts. The options change quite frequently, but I love to feature Italian cookies. I grew up making them with my [Sicilian] family and was ecstatic that they aligned with The Pizzeria’s culture.
With any long-standing institution, joining the team means both delivering on beloved favorites and crafting exciting new dishes. How have you balanced those requirements at The Pizzeria?
AC: It has been easy to balance this by having welcoming and loyal customers of The Pizzeria. I still feature the traditional desserts that The Pizzeria has always made, like the Oreo ball and key lime pie. I bring a lot to the table with my experience. I worked in France for six months following my graduation from the Louisiana Culinary Institute. I also worked in Dallas in hotels for several years and at a few of the Master’s Golf Tournaments. Bringing all my experiences together lets me create exciting new desserts all the time. I love the endless creativity you can have in the kitchen.
How would you characterize the Anna Chighizola essence you bring to the menu?
AC: I put a colorful and creative spin on the dessert menu. I always try new flavors and put twists on traditional desserts. I love floral on desserts and custom cakes with a pop of color and a sprinkle of glitter, of course! My training, experience and creativity allow me to build upon The Pizzeria’s classic menu to make it truly a dessert destination in Little Rock.
What have been some of your most popular dishes since you've been at The Pizzeria, and what dishes flew under the radar that you think deserved more hype?
AC: I create a new dessert menu every month, as well as seasonal menus for preordering holiday desserts. My Earl Grey creme brulee, king cakes and cookie butter cheesecake have been some of the top sellers. I do not think anything has flown under the radar — thankfully!
What, if anything, has surprised you about the Little Rock restaurant scene?
AC: I think what surprised me about the Little Rock restaurant scene is that there is such a wide variety of restaurants here. I think the restaurant scene is a huge part of Little Rock as a whole. There seems to be a close-knit community behind each restaurant following. I have been here for almost two years and I still haven’t tried everything. Also, I love that I have been able to make The Pizzeria a spot to come for dessert. The restaurant scene is always growing and welcoming newcomers. I love it.
If you were to create a dream dessert menu, what would be on it?
AC: A dream dessert menu... That could be pages long for me! I think my dream dessert menu would be all the French delicacies — macarons, lemon meringue tarts, Mille Feuille and so much more. France truly holds such a special place in my heart, and their desserts are truly my favorite. The culture there is like no other.
Can you share any upcoming treats or flavors you're excited about?
AC: I am always trying to keep up with trends, designs and flavors. I release a seasonal menu each holiday. Our Easter menu will be great. It will include the classics like carrot and coconut cakes, but will also include pane di pasqua (Italian Easter bread) and plenty of Italian cookies. I also have multiple baking classes coming up, including Cinco de Mayo cookie decorating and summertime macaron classes. It’ll be a fun spring and summer!
Visit pizzeriapastries.com for preorders and classes, and follow Chighizola's baking adventures on Instagram via @pizzeria_pastries.
FABULOUS FINDS ANTIQUE & DECORATIVE MALL.