On America's biggest sports day, pizza fuels American dream

Dgibril Yanogo, a deliveryman originally from Burkina Faso, takes a pizza from the oven on a busy Super Bowl Sunday at a Domino's Pizza.
Dgibril Yanogo, a deliveryman originally from Burkina Faso, takes a pizza from the oven on a busy Super Bowl Sunday at a Domino's Pizza. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 04, 2014

Ratah Mondol, 30, of Bangladesh, was a pizza-making machine Sunday in West Philadelphia.

Hour after hour, he pummeled soft balls of pizza dough into circles at breakneck speed, spinning and tossing them to fit them onto baking pans.

Ready for deliveries were drivers Said Rachad, 34, of Morocco; Jaime Piedra, 46, of Ecuador; Lassana Seck, 34, of Senegal; Mohammed Haque, 21, of Bangladesh; and Djibril Yanog, 30, of Burkina Faso.

On Super Bowl Sunday, while America reveled in its favorite national pastime, another American story was being played out at Domino's Pizza at 45th and Chestnut Streets.

"I came here as everyone came here, for the American Dream - the financial dream, to own my own business," said Rachad, who arrived in the United States in 2003 and who also cleans offices at night.

Working at a hotel in Morocco, he made points with some American guests when he told them he played football. They asked him whether he used his hands or feet.

"Come on, it's football," he said, laughing at the memory. "Why are they asking me that? Why do you think they call it 'football'?"

It was only after he arrived here that he understood the question.

Rachad meant soccer, which the rest of the world calls football. The Americans were talking about the game being played Sunday, the one with touchdowns.

"I don't understand it," Rachad said.

In the world of pizzas and chicken wings, Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year.

Mark Coskun, 38, who owns 10 Domino's franchises, expected to sell at least $10,000 worth of food at the 45th and Chestnut site alone - well above the typical $4,000 Sunday take.

Before he came to America from Turkey 20 years ago, Coskun had tried pizza once or twice. "Here, every corner has a pizza store," he said. "I was shocked."

Coskun said he graduated from Brooklyn College, dreaming of setting up an import-export business to Turkey. "I was never thinking of pizza."

He and his partners were on the edge of a multimillion deal to sell security cameras to the Turkish government to protect Turkish cabdrivers when the 9/11 attacks occurred.

The fallout shattered world economies and the deal fell apart. "I lost everything," he said.

To start over, Coskun delivered pizzas at a Domino's. He came to admire the company, bought one franchise and then more. Now, he, his wife, and two children live in Voorhees. He eats pizza every day.

"I'm an Eagles fan," he said.

Piedra lives in Philadelphia. Until six months ago, his wife and two daughters lived with him in New York, but they never became accustomed to life in America.

They returned to Ecuador, but Piedra says there is no work there for someone his age. He hopes his teenage daughters will return here to attend college. Meanwhile, he misses them terribly.

"It's very sad," he said as he maneuvered his car through the streets of West Philadelphia. "Sometimes I cry."

Seck works two jobs, delivering pizza and working as a courier for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He sends 60 percent of what he earns to Senegal, where he supports his mother, six sisters, and three brothers.

A newlywed, he saves 10 percent to underwrite his dream: "I'd like to open a grocery store in Senegal."

Presiding over the multinational scene at Domino's was Megan Dodds, 26, a born-and-bred Jersey girl who once dreamed of being a police officer but who says she can make as much money as a Domino's manager and "I'm not going to be shot."

She brought her entire 23-member staff in to work on Super Bowl Sunday, figuring they would sell at least 1,000 pizzas.

She loves Super Bowl Sunday. "It's just crazy busy," Dodds said.

Ninety minutes before game time, the pressure was building. "Let's go. Let's go. Let's go," she said. A 29-pizza order had to move out the door by 5:15 p.m., along with an order for 15 more.

Mondol kept working the dough.

Ladling the sauce next to him was Boimah Moiyallah, 20, of Liberia. She came to the U.S. when she was 11 and is now in college, studying biology, hoping to become a surgeon.

As for pizza, she'd rather have chicken nuggets.

And as for football, she'd rather watch basketball.

"I really don't get everything about football."


jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen

www.inquirer.com/jobbing

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