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‘Billions’ Season 5 Episode 3: How ‘pizza pope’ Anthony Mangieri's real story inspired THAT delicious twist

If you are as hungry as us after watching that pizza scene, here's a fun fact from the ‘Billions’ writers: It's based on Anthony Mangieri, owner of Una Pizza Napoletana
UPDATED MAY 18, 2020
‘Billions’ (Showtime)
‘Billions’ (Showtime)

In the latest episode of ‘Billions’, it's not the big bucks but the heavenly pizza that will hold all your attention. Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) wants a pricey piece of art, and when Axe wants something, he gets it — by hook or crook! But not this time. His new rival in town, Michael Thomas Aquinas Prince (Corey Stoll) swoops in and takes what he wants before he even sets his eyes on it. 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' fame Frank Grillo makes an appearance as Nico Tanner, a talented artist who stresses how he doesn't “paint for money” but Bobby makes it very clear and says, “I'm not asking for your soul. Just your next eight paintings.”

To convince him, he takes that old saying seriously: The way to a man's heart is through his stomach! Axe treats Tanner to pizza from Manhattan's Una Pizza Napoletana. “So Anthony, my new pizza guy. He's a lot like you, a true artist.” He even challenges him, “Take a bite, tell me I'm wrong.” And it would be an understatement to say he's truly impressed. “Mmm. Wow. F**k,” is all Tanner can say. 

'Billions' (Showtime)

If you are as hungry as us after watching that scene, here's a fun fact from the ‘Billions’ writers: "That’s Anthony Mangieri, owner of Una Pizza Napoletana. The restaurant was featured last season in episode 5." So, who really is Mangieri, why he's called the pizza pope, and what is all the hysteria around his magical pizza-making skills? The chef took the New York and San Francisco foodies by a storm and his real story will fascinate you to bits. The man, who grew up in Beachwood in an Italian-American family wanted to be a Catholic priest, a jazz bassist, or a janitor. Can you believe it? Luckily, baking grabbed his attention and he started exploring the ancient traditions of making pizzas in Naples. 

The self-taught pizzaiolo told Asbury Park Press in an exclusive interview, “I did everything by myself. My mom would drive me to work because I didn’t even have a car. I would start working at like 10 o'clock at night and I would work until two or three in the afternoon the next day.” A column on how Mangieri's bread was the best got him a surge in his customers. “I literally never had 30 customers in one day,” he said. "I was like, ‘Oh, my god, what is this?'”

'Billions' (Showtime)

Soon, his sales skyrocketed and his fame reached newer heights. ‘Billions’ showrunner Brian Koppelman, a close friend, soon featured Mangieri on his show and even reflected on his unique pizza-making skills in a podcast. Last year, on Season 4 Episode 5 ‘A Proper Sendoff’, Mangieri himself made an appearance and said in a scene, “It's good to love what you do. Enjoy, guys.” And once anyone tastes the pizza, they would agree with Chuck Rhoades' (Paul Giamatti) words, “If the only way I could eat this pizza was naked, in the middle of Times Square, I would.”

As more episodes of the Showtime series roll every Sunday at 9 pm ET, we wish that Mangieri's scrumptious pizzas keep making an appearance and add the delicious twist to the show like the one in this episode! Wouldn't you wish for the same?