ABOUT 25 MILES SOUTH OF Guatemala’s capital, more than 8,000 feet above sea level, the Pacaya volcano overlooks the villages of San Vicente, Pacaya and Amatitlán. On clear days, from the mountain top, tourists can even see Guatemala City and the neighboring volcanoes of Fuego, Agua and Acatenango. And, in 2019, the Pacaya became the first pizza place in the country, and one of the first on earth, to use lava caves as ovens.
Pizza Pacaya’s founder, chef and accountant Mario David García Mansilla, became intrigued with the Pacaya in 2010, when the volcano erupted, spewing bright-red flaming rocks over the roofs of San Vicente and nearby villages. Instead of running away, García Mansilla decided to stay close to the mighty mountain.
His curiosity drew him in to the volcano’s crater, where he found guides inviting tourists to roast marshmallows over the hardened-but-still-simmering lava. He decided to try something even more creative…Pizza! For years, he has baked pizza for him and his friends on the cave-like structures. In 2019, after perfecting his technique, he developed this into a business.
You can regularly find, García Mansilla hikingup the top of the volcano’s carrying 60 pounds of ingredients and equipment on his back to meet tourists who have made a reservation. García Mansilla offers a variety of toppings. He assembles the pizza using previously kneaded dough and bakes it for about 14 minutes. When he cooks on top of still-hot lava, the process only takes a couple of minutes, as the magma can reach up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 °C).
And as a small note….this place is very dear to me for three reasons, first my 19 year old adopted daughter was born in San Vicente, second, we named our miniature schnauzer Pacaya, after climbing the volcano and lastly…Pizza is my favorite food! Nancy