Where Can You Get Good Pizza Around Here?
Chris Sarage ’92 went from working at Amherst’s Antonio’s Pizza to opening up his own place in Bolivia in the world’s largest salt flat.
You’ve been traveling by train for many hours across the Bolivian Altiplano from Oruro. Leaning your cheek wearily against the window, you doze off. When the conductor announces your connection at Uyuni, you jolt awake—and can hardly believe what you see—a shining white landscape like an alien planet. Ravenous for nourishment and answers, you disembark and head straight for a place fabled among hungry travelers: a legendary pizza joint.
Minuteman Revolutionary Pizza, founded by UMass Amherst alum Chris Sarage ’92, is surrounded by the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. Thousands of square miles of salt left by the evaporation of an ancient inland sea have leveled so perfectly that you can see the curvature of Earth. Subsurface water causes the salt layer to crack into hexagons, and reflected light from the Salar de Uyuni can be seen all the way to the moon.
A Spanish major and Latin American studies minor who went backpacking through Central America after graduation, Sarage began his career as a “slice slinger” at the newly opened Antonio’s Pizza in Amherst in 1992. That’s where he met his future wife, Sussy Duran, a visiting postgrad in environmental studies, eventually following her back to Bolivia where her parents operate the Toñito ecotourism hotel. He established his first pizzeria in La Paz in 1997 and then relocated to Uyuni in 2003.
As pizza was new in Bolivia in 1997, Sarage fielded such questions as to whether it should come with rice and had to cut his own pizza boxes with a knife because there was no sup-plier for them. “Here,” he says, “you have to get it or you invent it.” He has since added local ingredients to his repertoire, including llama meat, quinoa flour, and salt from the salar.
The landscape still stuns Sarage with its strange beauty. “You can drive for hours without seeing the edge. You can get lost in the middle of this vast, surreal white desert—you walk on the salt and it looks like you are walking on snow, but it crunches. When it rains, and the salt covers up with water, it reflects everywhere.”