Your Colleagues

Summer Hours: Pizzas for Roswell

Douglas Levere holding an open pizza box with a cheese and pepperoni pizza inside.

Pausing for only a moment in his pizza production, Douglas Levere holds his best-selling pizza – the CupnChar Pepperoni.

Photos and text by MEREDITH FORREST KULWICKI

Published July 30, 2021

Editor's note: Summer Hours is a photo series focusing on UB staff members who use the longer days to pursue interesting hobbies, causes and other endeavors outside of their day jobs.

What started as an random ad in his social media newsfeed has since become a creative passion and major fundraising tool. This summer, Douglas Levere, photo/video manager for University Communications, is using his talent for making personal Neapolitan pizzas to raise money for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“I love making pizza and have found it to be a wonderful way to get friends to donate to Roswell Park,” Levere explains.

UBNow caught up with Levere on a late June evening at Public Espresso + Coffee in the Hotel Lafayette in downtown Buffalo. Forty pre-folded pizza boxes are stacked in the corner. The oven warms nearby, ingredients ready for the assembly line of pizza-making. Some of the ingredients have been donated by large food suppliers, as well as friends.

Douglas Levere spreading cheese on a pizza.

Each pizza gets a personal touch, from stretching the dough to adding the toppings. Here, the Rosemary and Goat Cheese pizza is prepared for the oven.

Levere moves a stack of pizza boxes.
Levere gets his personal favorite, the Rosemary and Goat Cheese Pizza, into the oven.
Anikó Marshall takes a photo of Levere preparing her pizza.
Levere spreading meat on a pizza.

The Hungarian Kolbasz Neapolitan Pizza features a sour cream base, topped with Hungarian kolbasz sausage and finished with red onion.

“To me, it’s a creative outlet; you’ll never make the same pizza twice,” says Levere, dressed in an apron and Roswell cap. His personal favorite is a goat cheese, mozzarella and rosemary pizza — and yes, it’s on the menu. “That rosemary, when it gets in the hot oven, it just has this really great fragrance,” he says.

Levere removes a pizza from the oven.

Levere held two pizza events at Public Espresso + Café in the Hotel Lafayette in June. The coffeeshop was closed at the time, giving him ample room for his creations.

Levere is fundraising for his second Empire State Ride, a 500-plus-mile, weeklong ride from New York City to Niagara Falls. The 2021 event has over 225 riders who have so far raised more than $1.4 million for cancer research at Roswell Park, according to the cancer center. (Editor’s note: The ride is currently underway; riders began on July 25 and will be reaching Niagara Falls on July 31.)

With three pizza fundraisers in late spring, as well as other efforts, Levere had raised nearly $8,000 by mid-July. But his goal is continually changing, as his pizza events keep selling out.

Levere removing a pizza from the oven.

The best time to enjoy this pizza is within minutes of it coming out of the oven, Levere says.

Levere rides across a bridge.

Levere rides across a bridge.

Levere poses on the grounds of a mansion in Hyde Park.

Levere poses on the grounds of a mansion in Hyde Park.

Riders on a road in a scenic area of New York State.

Riders on a road in a scenic area of New York State.

Levere and Anthony Billoni pose together at the halfway point.

Levere hit the halfway point of the ride on July 28 near Utica. He poses with friend Anthony Billoni. Levere posts updates to his Instagram and Facebook pages regularly. Photo courtesy of Douglas Levere

“People love his work,” says UB alumnus and adjunct faculty member Andrew Galarneau, who is also the food editor and restaurant critic for The Buffalo News, as well as Levere’s friend for more than 30 years.

Galarneau laughs when he recounts how dedicated Levere is to pizza-making — whether it’s shipping in his pizza oven by freight from overseas, or endlessly working to perfect his dough recipe. “I’m in awe of what he has done,” Galarneau says.

Levere has taken part in events for Roswell for about 10 years, and says it’s due, in part, to his own family’s experience. His mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 1980s. After receiving treatment near her Long Island home, her cancer stayed in remission for 20 years.

“It’s just phenomenal, what one person could do to change so many people’s lives,” Levere said of the fundraising efforts. “You know that your money is going to a good cause.”

Douglas Levere, a UB alumnus, has worked in University Communications since 2005. He is also caption of UB’s Ride for Roswell Spirit team and welcomes all riders to join the team on Aug. 7. Levere is still accepting donations for his 2021 Empire Ride.