In the short time Janet Zapata, Chef & Owner of 550 Pizzeria, has been serving up her savory specialty handcrafted pies to the Laredo community, she has already amassed several awards and accolades—more importantly, the respect and love from her Laredo community.

550 Pizzeria opened its doors in the spring of 2020—just as the Coronavirus pandemic took hold of Laredo. But that didn’t stop Janet, she quickly made a name for herself as she developed an eclectic menu of gourmet and specialty pizzas not found anywhere else. So, what makes 550 Pizzeria pizzas unique? It’s simple, years of experience working in the pizza industry, always using fresh ingredients, creating your own recipe for healthy dough that’s made daily—and a dream that began when Janet was just a child.

As a child, Janet grew up loving pizza, and found herself experimenting with different toppings—discovering flavors that fused well together—giving you an ‘out-of-this-world’ pizza experience. As an adult, Janet found herself working for a local pizza company, owned by her then boss, who became her mentor. The business eventually relocated to San Antonio, but not before showing Janet the ins and outs of owning and running a successful pizzeria.

When Covid-19 hit, Janet quickly began making pizzas for frontline heroes. Whether delivering pizzas to local ERs and nursing units or opening her doors for a few hours a day to give away boxes of pizzas to nurses and teachers, she says it was the very least she could do for those individuals who have given the most.

But her generosity didn’t stop there. Over the last 3 years, she’s held numerous fundraisers for multiple local organizations. Some of these include Pizza for Polio, Laredo Film Society, Gateway City Pride, Tri Beta Honor Society, Staggs Academy at TAMIU, Volunteers Serving the Need for local Veterans and the Ellen Degeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Janet’s philanthropic work—as well as her knack for creating delicious specialty pizzas—has not gone unnoticed. She’s been the recipient of numerous awards and has even been featured in national Pizza magazines. In 2022 and 2023, Janet was voted Best Chef and Best Pizza in LMT’s Readers’ Choice Award. She was also given the Tejano Achiever Award by LULAC Council #12. Janet’s success in such a short period of time even earned her a free 60-quart mixer—a gift valued at $30,000 from Hobart Food Equipment to help with her continued success.

While Janet’s name continues circulating among the pizza industry across the country, you’ll still find her behind the counter at 550 Pizzeria making her mouth-watering pies, even creating new pies her customers cannot wait to sink their teeth into, all while singing her praises to the community she calls home: “I love you Laredough!”