Founder & Owner, Pizzeria Paradiso
Owner and chef Ruth Gresser learned her craft at her mother’s side, cooking for her large family and her mother’s catering company. Gresser cooked her way through college before entering the professional food scene in San Francisco at the early stages of the modern American food movement. In 1987, after graduating summa cum laude from Madeleine Kamman’s Classical and Modern French Cooking School, and cooking professionally in French, American, and Italian restaurants across the country, she moved to Washington, DC. In 1991, Gresser turned her attention to pizza, opening Pizzeria Paradiso to critical acclaim, earning praise from local and national critics including a spot on Washingtonian magazine’s Very Best Restaurants List, Washington Post dining guide, and one of Zagat’s best restaurants nationwide.
Now considered the matriarch of pizza in the District, Gresser has been instrumental in the opening of seven popular Washington restaurants including five locations of Pizzeria Paradiso, Birreria Paradiso, which she helped build into one of the area’s most highly regarded craft beer programs, and Obelisk. In February 2014, Gresser released her first cookbook, “Kitchen Workshop-Pizza: Hands-on Cooking Lessons for Making Amazing Pizza at Home.” After having established Pizzeria Paradiso in three DC-area neighborhoods over a 25-year span, Gresser opened her first Maryland location in Hyattsville in 2017 in a mixed-use space with Art Works Now, a creative education and development-based organization helmed by her partner, Barbara Johnson. In December 2018, Pizzeria Paradiso opened a fifth location in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Washington, DC.
Gresser is active in the Washington, DC culinary and arts communities; she holds the position of Emeritus President of the Board of Directors of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, is a member of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, an active member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, and supports various arts organizations, most especially Art Works Now and The Theater Lab. She has earned a number of media accolades, including profiles in The Washington Post Magazine and The Washington Business Journal. The Washington Business Journal honored Gresser in 2017 as part of their ‘Women Who Mean Business’ awards. In 2019, Gresser was named a semifinalist in the James Beard Awards in the category of Outstanding Restaurateur. She lives in Silver Spring, Md., where she recently married her partner of 27 years.