Many parents wish to capture their baby's rapid growth during the first year of life. But one Maryland mother came up with a creative way to mark her baby's monthly growth spurts — and the idea went viral.
Dani Leigh Giannandrea, a wedding and family photographer based in Frederick, Maryland, told TODAY Food last year that she felt bad after starting a monthly photo project of her oldest son, Charlie (who is now 3 years old) as an infant but never completed it.
"I had mom regret over not finishing Charlie’s project, so when we named my son Lorenzo, my mom said we had to do something for his monthly milestones related to his Italian name," Giannandrea told TODAY.
As a nod to her husband's Italian heritage and her son's Italian name (they call him "Enzo" for short), the family decided to use pizza slices from their favorite local pizzeria as a fun way to not only mark her son's age and size, but it was also a great excuse not to have to cook at least once a month, she said.
This adorable display ended up being much easier than trying to position him in a suitcase every time, as they'd tried with their older son. But, of course, using pizza wasn't without its own set of complications.
"There was pizza grease everywhere," she admitted. Plus, she said her old pizza slicer didn't work well to cut each pizza into 12 slices — which is not how it's normally cut. For parents planning to do something similar, the mom of two had the following advice: "Invest in a quality pizza cutter."
For each shoot, Giannandrea's husband would try to get Enzo's attention for the camera, but at least one photo shows the back of his head as he's on his tummy.
When Enzo turned two this week, Giannandrea said she just had to mark the occasion the best way she knew how: with pizza.
She posted an adorable picture of her newly minted 2-year-old with two pizzas.
Even though Enzo likes pizza now, the photographer said that during the shoots, the hardest thing was trying to get her son to stop crawling away from the food.
Giannandrea posted the photos to her own photography blog, as well as on social media after Enzo turned 1 on Feb. 10, 2019 (he celebrated with the popular baby "smash cake"). Initially, she thought it might get passed around Pinterest, but she was totally surprised the photo set went viral around the world.
She said she got emails from people in Germany and the Czech Republic; though, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, nothing from Italy.
One year later, Giannandrea told TODAY she was surprised she hadn't gotten much business out of Enzo's viral fame, but that hadn't been the point.
"It’s shocking that nobody wants pictures of their baby by pizza," she joked.
But in fact, many parents have been doing just that. A quick search of the hashtag #pizzababy shows other parents have been recreating the shoot on their own.
She said even actress Shay Mitchell was doing it and shared a picture of her newborn on a pizza box.
"If she could just give me a tag, that'd be great!" Giannandrea laughed.
Giannandrea, who once photographed a wedding in Florence, Italy, said she hopes to take both kids to Italy one day, but plans to wait until they're old enough to "actually remember it."
She joked it would be terrible if Enzo grew up to be lactose intolerant and said she already has a plan worked out for his 18th birthday.
"I’m going to have to buy a drone to get 18 pizzas and have him lie down in the front yard," she laughed. "I'm already planning it!"