He was known as the quiet, reserved but hard-working cook from Vincenzo’s Pizza in Newhall. Locals knew him as the person who passionately flipped and tossed dough that fed thousands in the community for 34 years.
Gregorio Ortega, known as “Gollo” and “Greg,” died of an undisclosed illness on Jan. 13 at approximately 60 years old. Now, his family is raising funds to cover his burial in Mexico through a GoFundMe.
The staff members at Vincenzo’s Pizza in Newhall were shocked when their longtime staff member and friend died. Recently, Ortega was in and out of the hospital, but the staff never knew how severely ill he was because he liked to keep his personal life private.
Ortega was known as the hard-working, dedicated employee who would arrive at work an hour early to prep the produce, grate the cheese, and make sure everything was ready for the restaurant and the busy day ahead.
The long hours he worked were a regular occurrence throughout his life, and “he would stay beyond his scheduled time,” said Vincenzo’s part owner Steven Katz, who has owned the location for eight years. “If he saw that we were packed with orders he wouldn’t leave.”
Ortega became part of the Vincenzo’s family for many reasons. He dedicated his life to perfecting the pizza. He trained the new cooks to ensure the quality of the food remained intact. Ortega also became someone who kept the young workers grounded with his guidance and advice when they were having a bad day.
Vanessa Roman, organizer of the GoFundMe, met Ortega when she was only 5 years old. Now at almost 34 years old, she recalled different moments when Ortega, who she referred to as “Gollo,” would help her remain resilient through the hard days.
She began working at Vicenzo’s Pizza in Newhall after her hours were cut at a previous job at a preschool. With the hardships she faced throughout her life, she learned from Ortega one important thing: No te reindas.
Do not give up.
“I was in my early adult life, dealing with breakups and wanting to quit my job,” Roman said. “I would try not to let my emotions get the best of me and just give up.”
“He said, ‘Just keep trying, things will get better, you’ll see.’”
As she faced navigating her life as a single parent those three words Ortega would tell her in Spanish stuck with her.
No te reindas.
Although Ortega was a private man with his personal life, he was described as someone dependable that the Vicenzo’s staff could count on in the kitchen. He rarely took breaks and was dedicated to ensuring everyone in the work environment never slacked off.
Katz credits Ortega’s hard work and dedication to the restaurant as one of the many reasons why it’s remained successful for so long.
“He wasn’t just an acquaintance, he was part of our lives,” said Katz. “The best pizza cook I’ve ever seen in my life.”
To donate through the GoFundMe, visit www.gofundme.com/f/gregorio-ortega.