About Us

For the love of pizza

pizza-sliceTake a peek into the Jillyanna’s experience…

Who we are

We are formally trained teachers with graduate degrees from Boston University, the University of Maine and the University of Connecticut.  Between us, we have 50 years of public school teaching experience.

Meet Jillyanna (Jill)

val-bioJillyanna (Jill Strauss) is a published food writer, radio journalist and television chef. She appears regularly during live cooking segments on Portland, Maine's WCSH6 TV. A summa cum laude Johnson & Wales University culinary graduate. Jill has worked in professional restaurant kitchens throughout New England and has studied Italian cooking with famous cookbook author Giuliano Hazan in Verona and fourth-generation pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia in Naples. Jill is also an accomplished public school teacher and for fifteen years taught K-12 students. In 2012, Jill renovated her own private kitchen and picturesque patio to create an elegant indoor and outdoor classroom where she can share her Italian-inspired recipes and wood-fired cooking techniques with students from all over the world.

Meet Valerie


Valerie founded the Festival of Creative Youth in Portland Maine, a three-week summer program for gifted children that lasted 20 years. When she was not directing the festival, Val served as a beloved public school teacher and respected administrator. Now that she is “retired,” she is happy to be working from home and helping Jill share her passion with others. She is particularly glad to be focusing on Italian food since Valerie is half Italian and cannot let a week go by without making her family’s sauce and meatballs.

Our Philosophy

We respect our ingredients.

You’ll use the finest, freshest local ingredients, as well as the best Italian imports.

Our lessons are hands-on.

Your class will be small (6-8 students), so you’ll get to tear the herbs, stretch the dough, and poke the live fire.

Good food takes time to prepare

You’ll discuss recipes, prep and cook with amore, and enjoy the best rustic meal with people who share your passion for pizza.


Cooking in a woodfired stone oven may encourage you to slow down, breathe deeply and appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. You may find yourself grateful for things you cannot control. Imagine a small flame dancing the length of a long maple twig inside a wood-fired stove. A spark from the twig ignites the kindling and…poof! The dry logs are engulfed. Soon, the oven is crackling and bright. When the fire gets too hot and the flames are too high, you take an iron poker and slide the burning wood around the perimeter of the oven. The smoke begins to swirl and you wait until the oven lets you know it’s time for another log…

Our goal is to expose you to the wonders of woodfired cooking and give you a chance to see how this old-fashioned method can magically transform raw ingredients. We’ll also spend time in our indoor teaching kitchen equipped with a Viking gas oven and a Wolf electric oven. So if you don’t have a stone oven on your patio, if you don’t have the patience to wait for logs to catch fire, or if it’s pouring rain and the romance of being outside dims, never fear. We’ll give you the recipes we’ve developed and the techniques you’ll need to make beautiful Italian-inspired food in your own home oven.