By Kim Centazzo, Connection Newspapers – July 26, 2006
Juliana Zarou uses her hands to do many things. She plays the piano, turns the pages of her favorite books and tosses pizza dough in front of her father’s restaurant, Don Corleone’s Brick Oven Pizzeria in Sterling. At 3:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20, Amy Zarou pulled up to the family restaurant. Three small girls spilled out of the green van, dressed in black shirts, white aprons and red caputos, Don Corleone’s signature bakers hats. Waleed Zarou met his wife and daughters at the door. He handed his oldest daughter, Juliana, a piece of practice dough made of rubber and sprinkled with flour, called Throw Dough. Juliana tossed the dough toward the sky, twirling the rubber on her fingertips and bouncing it off of the back of her palms.
“The longest I’ve gone is 30 seconds,” Juliana said. She never took her eyes off the dough.
TWO MONTHS AGO, Juliana began practicing her skills in front of the pizzeria, in preparation for the Throw Dough National Finals Junior Division for the under 18 division in Orlando, Fla.
“She has a natural knack,” her mother, Amy Zarou, said.
“My dad taught me,” Juliana said.
Waleed Zarou began throwing dough when he was 13 years old.
“I grew up around this my whole life,” he said.
Waleed Zarou grew up in his father’s restaurant in Rockville, Md., and one year ago, opened the Mafia-themed pizzeria. The restaurant’s walls are decorated with “Godfather” memorabilia. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino’s faces are plastered above a bar. A black mobster car sits outside of the restaurant. Their slogan: “We make pizza you can’t refuse.”
Waleed Zarou found out about the competition through an industry magazine and from watching the U.S. Pizza Team throw dough on ESPN.
In three weeks, Waleed Zarou is taking the whole family to Orlando, Fla., to watch Juliana compete against other children from across the country. She will be judged on the difficulty of her tosses, control of the Throw Dough and creativity. Right now she is working on tossing dough from one hand to another while spinning it, blindfolded. “The blindfold should get her big points,” Waleed Zarou said.
If she wins the national competition, she will advance as the first female U.S. Throw Dough champion to compete against other throw dough champions from around the world. She is also working on “the whip,” when she tosses it in the air, catches it, brings the dough down to her bellybutton and makes a figure eight, rolling the dough over the palms of her hands and back to her fingertips.
“It’s part of my routine,” Juliana said.
She will perform her tricks to the song “Never Give Up,” and will sport a black T-shirt with her name and the Don Corleone’s logo and Web site on it.
“In case she gets on television,” her father joked.
“The hardest part is controlling it,” she said. “But my arms never get tired.”
Juliana spends her afternoons outside of her father’s pizza restaurant, tossing dough back and forth, up toward the trees and back to her fingertips. Sometimes, her father practices with her.
“People love it,” Waleed Zarou said. “They stop and watch. It’s great for business. She’s a little performer.”
The performer doesn’t mind practicing in front of an audience. “Sometimes, I don’t even notice the people at Starbuck’s watching me from across the street,” she said. “I like it.”
Juliana’s main goal is to have fun. If she wins, she will receive a free trip to next year’s competition and a trip to Italy.
Her father is excited about the possibility of Juliana being the first female U.S. Throw Dough champion.
“We want to let them know girls are here to stay,” he said. “I’ve got three of them lined up.”