From pyramids to pepperoni

Walking into Giuseppe’s Pizzeria is like meeting Daren Harris. Both are warm, inviting, friendly, open and passionate. The larger-than-life personality of Harris pours over into his restaurant — ask about the Legend of the Drunken Fireman, a 20 pound 20 inch pizza.

Harris is a former Boone County sheriff, Northern Kentucky University’s former cheerleading coach and now the owner of Giuseppe’s Pizzeria in Covington, Ky.

After retiring in February 2010 from both coaching and from the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, Harris opened Giuseppe’s. He graduated from The Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State in December of 2009.

“My restaurant is me because I’m there so much,” Harris said.

When Giuseppe’s first opened, Harris was working 80-90 hours a week. Devoting time to coaching was not feasible. “It wouldn’t have been fair to them,” he said.
“I was at a point where it was a good time for a new coach to come in,” Harris said.

He came to NKU in 2006 as an assistant coach to then-head coach Mark McTague. When McTague left for Philadelphia, Harris moved up to the vacant head coach position — after being there for only six months.

In that first year as head coach, Harris and his squad won the Universal Cheerleading Association’s Division II Small Co-ed national championship. Harris’ squads would go on to win three more national titles.

“In those five years I was there, it was probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve done with my life,” Harris said.

Though he has been away from the university for a year and a half, Harris still feels very much a part of NKU. Coaches, professors and players frequent the small pizzeria. Those whom Harris coached still keep in touch with him, as well.

“He was very straightforward and told you exactly how it was and what was expected of you,” senior communications major Dana Hays said. “He had a great balance between being your friend and your coach.”

As a result of Harris’ strong desire to give the best product and focus on community, his restaurant is gaining attention and respect.

A reason more people are taking notice could be Harris’ passion for food. It was instilled in him at a young age when he watched his grandmother and mother bake in the kitchen. With his passion, he attempts to pass it on to his employees. Harris wants his workers to have the same love and interest in food.

Everything is made fresh at Giuseppe’s.

“We cook pizza here. We bake out of this restaurant. We don’t put it on a conveyor belt…We bake the pizza every time,” Harris said.

“Daren is great. He is the best boss I’ve ever had,” said third-year photography major Mary Hughes-White. “He helps people a lot. He’s donated lunch to local charities. It’s things like that that make it a better place to work.”

His time and energy are wrapped up in Giuseppe’s. However, there is a chance Harris could go back to coaching, though “maybe not at NKU.”

“I’m at a point here, now, where things are a bit calmer. I’m at a point where I would consider going back and doing some more,” Harris said. “I don’t know if I would want to be a head coach. I would just want to be part of the team … maybe someplace else, maybe one of the high schools.”