ST HELENA (KPIX) — A celebrated Napa Valley chef offered a simple online cooking class to draw business to his pizza restaurant and it has become so popular that people now tune in from around the world.

Tra Vigne Pizzeria in St. Helena is hurting just like all restaurants in this era of the coronavirus. So, owner Nash Cognetti began offering take-out kits to help customers recreate his authentic Italian pizza.

“We thought this would be something people could do at their home,” Cognetti explained. “They could cook and still have restaurant-quality food but they could have a little fun doing it.”

To help his customers, Cognetti hosted a live, online cooking lesson on his Facebook page. The lesson, pardon the expression, went viral. So, chef Cognetti now presents a live cooking lesson every Friday at 6 p.m. showing how to prepare various mainstay Italian dishes, from lasagna to gnocchi to tiramisu. Cognetti welcomes guest chefs and an occasional wine expert to join him.

Though it’s viewed by thousands, Cognetti still seems shocked by his global online reach as when a viewer recently joined the webcast from New Zealand.

Take-out orders and sales of his cooking kits have been strong and have helped keep most of his employees working but the dining room is empty and quiet thanks to the ongoing the stay-at-home order.

Dan Schwarz drove up from Napa for some fresh bread to go with his homemade Mozzarella.

“We’re adapting in my house, it’s definitely a shift,” he said. “I’m learning how to cook a little better than I used to since I’m home more.”

Cognetti says he enjoys being an online celebrity chef but looks forward to the time when he’s too busy to do it any more. Until that day, though, he says he’s not worried about running out of recipes to teach.

“The Italian cookbook is volumes thick,” he said. “So, basically, I go through it, I say ‘this is something I can teach people how to cook in about 30 minutes.’ And so, we have thousands of opportunities going forward in the future.”

Next week’s lesson? Chicken piccata followed by cioppino. For more information, go to the Tra Vigne Pizzeria website.

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