Hanover pizza shop gives away $400 pizza to beat COVID-19 blues

Jason Eckenrode piled a colorful array of toppings on a very special — and very expensive — pizza.

“The Mona Lisa," so named for its artful design, is $70 a slice, or $400 for the whole pie, and Eckenrode, owner of Divino Pizzeria & Grille in Hanover, decided to spread some cheer amid the pandemic by making one to give away for free on Friday.

"It’s just a nice treat for somebody," he said. "Who knows if they’re struggling or what’s going on in their life."

Hanover's Divino Pizzeria & Grille crafted a "Mona Lisa" pizza with edible gold flake for a giveaway Friday, May 22, 2020.

It’s the second week in a row Divino has made the in-house creation. Eckenrode and employees crafted two of the unique specialty pizzas last Thursday.

It takes about a week to prepare ingredients: house-made mozzarella, imported fontina cheese, a marinara blend that takes six hours or more to cook, porcini mushrooms soaked in Dom Perignon for two hours, lobster, tiger prawns, organic spinach, red and black sturgeon caviar and edible gold flakes.

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And it only takes about eight minutes in the oven before it's ready.

In a Facebook Live on Thursday, May 14, Eckenrode joked that it was a "stimulus special" that customers could come in and buy with their $1,200 check.

"It's $2 more expensive than Gordon Ramsay's pizza," he said. "We had to beat him by two bucks."

Divino Pizzeria and Grille's "Mona Lisa" pizza, a $400 creation with sturgeon cavear, porcini mushrooms soaked in Dom Perignon, lobster, tiger prawns and edible gold flake, May 22, 2020.
Divino Pizzeria & Grille owner Jason Eckenrode (left) and his sister Samantha (right) prepare ingredients for the "Mona Lisa" pizza, a $400 specialty pie.

He sold a couple of slices that day and gave the rest away — par for the course at Divino, which has made a number of donations since the pandemic began.

Staff has come in at odd hours to provide food for third-shift hospital workers as well as other essential workers at grocery stores or in the fire or police departments, and students who would normally have free or reduced lunch at school.

What started with 20 or 30 people calling in ended up with deliveries to schools in Hanover Public, South Western, Spring Grove Area and several districts in Adams County for about 3,500 total lunches, or 7,000 slices, he said.

Tiger prawns, lobster, sturgeon caviar and edible gold flake are just a few of the ingredients in Divino's $400 pie, given away for free Friday, May 22, 2020.

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Divino also has a wall with a "take a dollar, leave a dollar" option to buy someone a slice, which the restaurant will match. In all, they have provided about 10,000 slices.

The Mona Lisa is on Divino's menu, though only a handful have ordered the $400 item — but there have been some return customers, Eckenrode said.

Mostly it's just there to be a conversation starter.

"One day we were looking at extravagant pizzas," he said. "We wanted to have something not necessarily that everybody’s going to buy but just hoping that people could talk about."

And that's definitely happened.

The giveaway, announced in a Facebook post Thursday, had 273 comments and 305 shares, and one lucky winner was chosen at random.

Hope Matthew claimed the prize, according to Divino's Facebook post, and planned to share the creation with her neighbors — even though she didn't know all of them.

Divino has more giveaways planned, including another Mona Lisa pie in July.

"We just try to give back to the community," Eckenrode said. "That helps us keep going."

Jason Eckenrode, owner of Divino Pizzeria & Grille, in Hanover, prepares tiger prawns and lobster, two of the ingredients on his famous "Mona Lisa" pizza.