AUBURN — The odds are stacked against you if you decide to open a restaurant, with most studies showing a failure rate of 60% in the first year and 80% in the first five years.

Corwin St. Pierre has not only bucked the odds at Cibo Pizza, (pronounced CHEE-bo), he has done it by himself, with the support and guidance of his uncle. He is the only employee, and he likes it that way.

Last week, St. Pierre marked five years in business, which is a milestone for restaurants and a sign the eatery is profitable and working.

“I never thought I’d be here in the first place,” he said as he prepared another pizza. “And now, here I am, five years later still doing the same thing and loving it more than I thought I would.”

It has not all been a bed of roses for the young entrepreneur. Located in the basement of the Auburn Public Library at 49 Spring St., St. Pierre started his business as a cafe — baking off his own brioche rolls, slow roasting pork, roasting chickens and developing his own vegan ingredients like seitan pepperoni and Italian sausage and a sunflower-based alfredo sauce.

What he quickly realized was it was a lot of work for not a lot of return — selling coffee, cookies and pastries made from scratch and making sandwiches from fresh ingredients. But because he had no prior business experience, he said he didn’t know exactly what to do to fix it. He had the pizza ovens in place and had always planned on adding pizza to the menu.


Corwin St. Pierre puts a pizza in the oven Thursday night at Cibo Pizza in the basement of the Auburn Public Library at 49 Spring St. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal


It was St. Pierre’s uncle, Craig Tribuno — partner and co-owner in Davinci’s Eatery — who challenged the young man to leave his job managing a gas station and garage in Georgetown, Massachusetts, and move to the Twin Cities and open his own business.

Tribuno’s father bought his first pizzeria in Brooklyn in the 1970s. Naturally, he learned the art of pie making and passed it on to his nephew Corwin, who makes his own dough and a very simple tomato sauce with no added sugar. Now it was time to practice and make a pizza that customers would want to buy.

“I passed the recipes from my father’s pizzeria in New York on to Corwin,” Tribuno said. “It is fair to say he has taken the foundations passed down and elevated them to previously unimagined places.”

Roughly 16 months after St. Pierre opened his fledgling business, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Rather than throw his hands up in the air and give up, he said he thought, what’s a good takeout food?

“Pizza and Chinese food. That’s like, take-out food. So, I was like, I’m just gonna stop doing everything for three weeks, figure it all out and just do pizza.”


It was one of the smartest business decisions he’s made because it makes his business simpler and easier to manage, even by himself.

St. Pierre had two employees at one point who moved on. He decided he’s fine working by himself. It also explains why he’s only open Wednesday through Saturday, on top of helping his wife care for their 10-month-old daughter. Still, he works 10- to 12-hour days making dough daily, preparing fresh ingredients, roasting chickens, roasting mushrooms and making his own recipe vegan ingredients in-house.

Cibo buys its produce locally through Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce. He also makes a basil aioli to finish off his version of a Margherita pizza, called a Roma, and makes his Italian sausage in-house.

The entrance to Cibo Pizza is spotlighted Thursday evening at the Auburn Public Library at 49 Spring St. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal


Keeping it simple allows St. Pierre to work alone. He has a website where about 95% of his orders are placed and he uses social media. He said if he took phone orders, the phone would be constantly ringing, and he would never get anything done. So, customers have to order online or in person. It’s a simple system and if he gets too busy he shuts down the ordering system briefly to catch up.

He makes a set amount of dough each day, based on sales, so it’s not uncommon for him to sell out on any given day. The advice is for customers to preorder early in the day and pick it up when they want it.


Don’t expect subs, salads or wings, because Cibo doesn’t offer them. It’s all about New York style brick-oven thin crust with fresh ingredients.

“I’ve got 44 toppings and 36 specialty pizzas,” St. Pierre said. “So, there’s a lot to choose from, but it’s all just pizza. It’s all a pizza station.”

The space is open and bright after St. Pierre took down two walls. “I made it just an open concept so you can see how clean the space is, which I think has the interest for people that they can actually see how clean the kitchen is.”

The library is an interesting choice of location for a pizzeria, but the space was available when he started the business after Cafe LA closed.

St. Pierre admits the library management would probably rather have a coffee shop open during library hours, but for him, the economics don’t add up. So he’s proposed sharing the space with someone who wants to sell coffee and light foods while he cranks up the ovens in the afternoon and evenings.

Who knows if that will ever happen, but nobody has complained about the smell of fresh pizza baking!


Five years in, he was asked if he would do anything different?

“I would have started with pizza,” he said. “Now that I know everything that I know, I would have started with different equipment as well,” he said. Better and bigger pizza ovens, which post-pandemic are expensive and hard to come by.

“We are all so very proud of Corwin,” his uncle said. “Each year Corwin adds a new wrinkle to his repertoire; pickles, sriracha, house-made seitan. Detroit Crossover. Where will it go next?”

And then there’s the name, which St. Pierre said is the most common mistake people make when it comes to his restaurant. “They don’t know how to pronounce the name.”

It’s pronounced CHEE-bo, which is Italian for food. Simple, eh?

“I just wanted to make really good pizza, make the people happy who I want to make happy, the people who want this style of pizza, and enjoy myself while doing it,” St. Pierre said.

And yes, he still eats pizza.

“I can’t eat enough pizza, still love it,” he said.

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