Even though summer is over, the award-winning Bronx Heat pizza recipe is still scorching hot.
Made with red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, hot sausage, jalapenos, ricotta, and hot sauce by an anonymous Bronxite that goes by ‘Nikki V’ online, it’s no shock how the pizza got its name.
The Bronx Heat pizza got its fame after winning an online competition that gave thousands of New Yorkers a chance to share recipes to have their creation immortalized and sold by the famous Champion Pizza of the Lower East Side.
The competition was put on by Slice, the future of online and mobile pizza ordering for local pizzerias.
Locally, Cestra’s Pizza and Loretta’s pizza in Throggs Neck and Country Club respectively already use the innovative ordering service.
“When you think of the Bronx, automatically you think of a kick, that’s what this pizza has - a Bronx kick,” said Champion’s owner Hakki Akdeniz. He would know, Hakki spent nine years of his life living on the Grand Concourse by 170th Street.
His success story in developing Champion Pizza is one for the ages.
Coming from Turkey, moving to Canada, and eventually the Bronx, Hakki began his American dream homeless on the Lower East Side and spending nights in Grand Central Station.
His luck finally changed when he was given the chance to do menial work for little pay at a Hoboken pizza shop some years ago. From there, Hakki kept pushing and turned his hard life into what many would consider to be a dream come true.
He later opened Champion and has grown it to seven locations around New York City, becoming an overnight celebrity along the five-year journey. His shop by Union Square is filled with photos of celebrities that have all come in for a slice of Champion Pizza at very given opportunity. Plus, he’s got over two million followers on Instagram.
The one celebrity he idolizes that never got to try Champion Pizza was Carrie Fisher, Hakki’s heartthrob as Princess Leia in Star Wars.
Being the die hard Star Wars fan that he is, when Carrie Fisher died Hakki let anyone that came dressed in character have a free slice…and a whole pie if you came dressed as Carrie.
As a way of paying it forward, every night he sends his leftover pies to the homeless shelter in Manhattan he once stayed at. Hakki is also contributing to relief efforts for Hurricane Florence.
“God is great, to put it simply,” Hakki said. “I could never drive a car, I could never swim, pizza is all I ever knew and I stuck to that, and I’m living the American dream, I’m living happy,” the entrepreneur joyfully added.
The new Bronx Heat Pizza has a kick, but it’s gentle.
It sounds crazy when thinking about biting into jalapeño peppers covered with hot sauce, but the spice isn’t overbearing.
Hakki attests that the ricotta in the recipe soaks up much of the vinegar, which defuses the excessive heat throughout the pie.
Up next for the self-made pizza guru is what he calls “making more magic,” otherwise known as pursing some very exciting pizza-related projects that are still in the oven.