Pizza Girl By Day And DJ By Night: How Caroline D’Amore Created Her Empire


Caroline D'Amore is a woman in high demand. She's a wife and mother. She's an international DJ (playing with DIPLO, Steve Aoki and more) and actress (you've seen her in movies like Sorority Row). And, she's head chef and co-owner of one of Los Angeles' most famous pizza joints—D'Amores Pizza—which was founded by her family.

Born out of a true love and respect for her grandmother's sauce recipe and her father's dedication to amazing pizza, D'Amores Pizza now boasts eight locations—with a sauce line called Pizza Girl—on the way. So, how does D'Amore find success with so much to balance? Family is her unwavering priority. “When your family feels love, you will feel even more powerful and be able to take on a busy lifestyle," she says. “Schedule sex [with your partner] if you have to—but make it a priority. My husband and I are going on ten blissful years together and making time for each other is key. We don't look at our phones on dates and just tune out the world as a family. I wake up to a million where the "F" are your emails and calls— but it's worth it."

So, it's no surprise that wanting to keep D'Amore's Pizza successful was born out of the devotion to her family legacy. D'Amore grew up in the restaurant business but like every rebellious teen, resisted following in those footsteps—at first.

“My childhood was spent in our restaurants or on-site catering of big events and film sets. So, when I became a teenager—I wanted nothing to do with pizza. I found music and DJing as my way out."

That rebellion showed D'Amore that she actually did have a knack for DJing and before long she was an international sensation, signed to one of the biggest DJ booking firms.

Photo Courtesy of USA Today

“The road, however, got lonely and I'd find myself seeking out Italian restaurants all over the world just to feel that sense of home and family," D'Amore explains. She met her husband Bobby Alt and they decided to open up their own location of D'Amore's Pizza at the same time that she discovered she was pregnant. “It was insane. Even growing up in the business I never really knew how hard it was to own and operate my own location. I remember many days being so stressed out and crying that a cook didn't show up. I either had to get back there and cook or we closed for the day."

That's when D'Amore realized being the boss meant she had to learn the ins and outs of every facet of the business. She taught herself to make everything on the menu, finding a love for cooking in the process. “I'd cook all day then come home and cook again for my husband and daughter. I grew obsessed with testing out different recipes in my own kitchen and then working with my team to implement them," D'Amore recalls. “Seeing the response each recipe got from my customers was such a satisfying feeling."

Connecting to customers is one of D'Amore's biggest drivers. “We're a real family business. You learn about our family when you dine with us and we love to hear about yours," she says. When their rent recently doubled, D'Amore's first priority was to her customers. She couldn't let them down with higher prices or worse yet, shutting down. D'Amore's business brain took over and she came up with a plan—add a catering division—which took off like a rocket. “We've been doing all the hottest events from Jessica Alba's Honest party to Seth Rogan's Hilarity for Charity event at the Hollywood Palladium," she says. In addition to that, she's releasing her own sauce line called Pizza Girl this summer. “It's a combination of my great grandmother's recipes and D'Amore's Pizza recipes—all have been locally sourced and are all organic."

Photo Courtesy of Caroline D'Amore

You'd think with the restaurant exploding into more divisions that one of D'Amore's projects would take a back seat. But no, she's still going full force as DJ. She recently opened for Diplo at Sundance, did a Today Show residency and played a party at Coachella. “It's all connecting because people in the crowd scream 'Pizza Girl!'—which I love!" she says. “I'm able to keep it all going by planning ahead and exercising time management."

And, rule one? No matter how busy D'amore gets, family always comes first. It's non-negotiable. “My daughter Isabella Viking Alt has traveled to many of my gigs. We make sure she doesn't feel left behind," D'Amore explains. “She's an amazing traveler and loves being at the restaurants just like I did as a kid." D'amore also doesn't have a nanny—something she knows is not possible for every working family— but, acknowledges that yes, sometimes her business suffers as a result—but those are sacrifices that are worth it.

With unwavering focus, D'Amore doesn't plan to slow down. She hopes to empower other entrepreneurs out there to stay the course and never give up. Her advice? Never act like you know everything.

Photo Courtesy of Caroline D'Amore

“It hurts you and your business," she explains. “Ask your employees questions and ask for their opinions. Empower them to feel ownership," she says. “When they love what they do and how they're treated—you'll see results. I like working with people that can teach me something that benefits the business. People willing to do more than just what's required to get the job done."

D'Amore says even with her family history, she never set out to be a restaurateur. It was a career path that found her. “I didn't have to make any crazy leaps, I just did what was organic in my life. I've always been being in the restaurant food industry—however, the cooking aspect took some time and education to get me to where I am now," she explains. “I've always loved feeding people—that's just the Italian woman in me."

That's not to say following that path has been easy. With any business comes rejection—and that's something that D'Amore is still learning how to handle. “I cry when I'm rejected because I'm always trying my absolute hardest so when I fail it hurts," she explains. “But then I snap out of it. Fail once, learn from it and do better next time and you will be fine. Continuing to fail means it's time to look at what you're doing and why. There's no reason to keep failing if you're trying your hardest and are studying your craft inside and out."

D'Amore knows she's where she's meant to be as she has no regrets! There's nothing she knows now that she wishes when she first opened up her own D'Amore's Pizza location. “I actually don't wish I knew what I know now when I first started in the restaurant world. If I did, I wouldn't have jumped in the way I did and who knows if I'd be here now?" she says. “But my advice is to love what you do. It's tough and if you don't really love what you're doing, it's a nightmare!"

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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."