All About The Pizzeria at Turtle Inn Serving Up Flavors (And Scenes) Of Italy

by Carolee Chanona

There are a few joys as authentic as enjoying a basil leaf-speckled, perfectly-charred slice of brick-oven pizza under a glowing terracotta roof while peering over a shared bar to a sprawling organic herb garden. Italy? Think again. Turtle Inn, Francis Ford Coppola’s beachfront hideaway in Southern Belize, is bringing a taste—and refreshing scene—of Italy with its newest al fresco dining option: The Pizzeria.

Yup, Coppola as in that Coppola. Famed film auteur Francis Ford Coppola is renowned for directing “The Godfather” film trilogy and “Apocalypse Now,” but many may not know of his second act as a hotelier. Referred to as hideaways by the family rather than resorts, the public understands the difference from the moment they arrive. Found where the Caribbean Sea melts into Placencia’s 16-mile long golden coastline, Turtle Inn also has 25 characteristic thatch-roof cottages and villas within steps of turbinado sugar-like sandy shallows alongside three eateries.

Creating A Silver Lining After Tragedy

In November 2021, a fire tragically ripped through the resort kitchen—long credited to authentic Italian fare and signature Neapolitan pies on the Peninsula. Thankfully, no one was hurt and local fire personnel on the scene quickly extinguished the fire. Seemingly retesting resilience after a year and a half of industry-wide pandemic challenges, the team at Turtle Inn instead used the setback as a catalyst to rebuild, essentially creating their own silver lining. The chance enacted an opportunity to create something beautiful, not necessarily in its place, but entirely from scratch. 

“Ana placed on paper what I had in my head. She’s brilliant, a visionary.”

Krediet teamed up with Belize-based Guatemalan architect Ana Siekavizza to bring the concept to life. The result? A summery dining space on the ground level that’s sure to be a hit all year long.

Casually Elegant, The Pizzeria Is Creative And Cozy

Past towering sunflowers that stand at attention, a striking stone walkway is flanked by perennial tomato shrubs and tumbling borders of fragrant basil. Its rustic charm is an obvious nod to an outdoor Italian kitchen and courtyard: a granite-covered island is the focal point of  the triangular open-air space, while its singular wall is decorated with (functional) wooden pizza peels, cork wine chillers, and woven placemats. On a first-come, first-serve basis, The Pizzeria intimately seats up to another 14 guests at Turtle Inn perched at a high-top table, for spritzes and slices in the sunshine.

In its center, a Malley Apple peers through the concrete and grazes interlocking clay tiles supported by wooden planks; keeping to its eco-friendly ethos at all Coppola Hideaways, the roof was actually constructed to catch rainwater to irrigate the organic garden.

“After collaborating with Francis on the name, we decided to keep it really simple: The Pizzeria at Turtle Inn!”

– Martin Krediet, General Manager at Francis Ford Coppola Resorts.

Martin Krediet, General Manager at Francis Ford Coppola Resorts.

The family is involved in every detail, Christine Gaudenzi, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Coppola Hideaways, tells Tablet in an interview. “Any new concept or evolution — of a menu item, the fabric on a decorative pillow, the tablecloths, you name it — is always first presented to the Coppola family for their approval. Guests to this day notice that these places were clearly curated by a family of artists.”

“When I emailed Francis with suggestions for the name—which included names related to one of his granddaughters, a concept at Blancaneaux, and a few more—he replied, why not The Pizzeria?”, Krediet shares. “I replied less is more—we’ll keep it simple. The Pizzeria at Turtle Inn it will be!”

Breaking Your Fast The Coppola Way

In the morning, there are a few choices available as single-serving pizzas at 6.5 inches; find a Classic Breakfast—mozzarella, crispy bacon, mushrooms, organic spinach, eggs, and bacon—and a lox-inspired Salmon one—cream cheese, salmon, capers, fresh dill, sliced onions, tomato, and a hit of lime juice. Or, tuck into their Belizean Breakfast concoction with a homemade chilaquiles sauce base, pureed beans, eggs, and whole beans, with fresh avocado, queso fresco, and plantain. The results are incredibly complex in flavor, in spite of their seeming simplicity.

Dine-in throughout the day, but it’s particularly great early morning and anytime from dusk forward. Or, pick up the warm decagon box on bicycle or golf cart thanks to an adjacent window right off the highway; peer through, and you’ll see tender slabs of dough being wooed into a circle by the pizzaiolo before meeting a crackling fire. Wash it all down with a palate-cleansing Sofia wine from the formidable list.

After all, Coppola has commented before that the hideaways are ultimately a lot like movies. “The staff is the cast of the film, and the guests are the audience,” he said. “And you invite your guests into a world, maybe a magical world. And as with a movie, there’s always a detail—some little thing—that people remember.” Whether it’s the earthen clay water pots or string lights reflecting on the condensation of a chilled glass of Diamond Collection Sauvignon Blanc, The Pizzeria is an unforgettable scene of Italy in Belize.

Images courtesy author. 

Venture from the beaches of Placencia into the Naples-inspired pizzeria that’s serving soft, chewy, thick-rimmed pizza—plus a handful of calzone and salad options—for a delivery that’s more than just a crunch. The Pizzeria at Turtle Inn is open all day, every day, and even offers a 2-for-1 pizza promo on Sundays.

All images courtesy Turtle Inn unless stated otherwise.

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