'He’s as much the pizzeria as I am': Chris Bianco calls for help for hospitalized friend

Bahar Anooshahr
Arizona Republic
"[Berto] is as much as the pizzeria that I am," said Chris Bianco.

Chris Bianco took to Instagram on Aug. 3 to share the sad news that Alberto "Berto" Hernandez, who "never missed a day of work" since he started cooking at Pizzeria Bianco in 1994, suffered two strokes on Sunday, July 24 at 53 years old. The second stroke was massive enough to land him in the intensive care unit, though he has since been moved out of the ICU.

Bianco wrote that Julie, Hernandez's wife of 30 years, and his children “are devastated but remain strong and by his side, braced for the journey ahead.” 

The award-winning chef asked people to donate to a GoFundMe account set up by Dave Garland, another member of the Bianco team, with the goal of raising $50,000 to help Hernandez's family with the medical bills.

“I will be announcing some additional fundraising events for him or even possible small gatherings that I will do personally and with friends that will all go to Berto and his recovery,” Bianco wrote.

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Dave Garland and Berto Hernandez worked together at Pizzeria Bianco for 25 years.

A longtime friend and front man at Pizzeria Bianco

Opened by James Beard award-winning chef Chris Bianco in 1987, Pizzeria Bianco is considered one of the best pizzerias in the nation and has garnered national attention from the likes of Gayle King who wrote: "[It was] unlike anything I've ever tasted," she said, " ... It had me at hello," on Oprah.com.

"Every day you could count on a few things: the sun coming up and Alberto being there. He’s as much the pizzeria as I am," Bianco told The Republic. "My place is Berto, his brother Lacho and Dave. They are almost part of an extended family for our customers."  

People who knew Hernandez or had encountered him, wrote fondly about him in the comments, like Patrick Griffin who said: “That guy is amazing. I’ve secretly admired him for years. He’s the real deal and the face of that pizzeria. Sad to hear this news but I have no doubt he will pull through. He’s very strong. I just know he’s going to be alright.”

Donations can be made by searching: Donate to help Berto Hernandez on GoFundMe.

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Reach the reporter at BAnooshahr@azcentral.com. Follow @banooshahr on Twitter.