Pasquale Cozzolino is a master in the kitchen, but four years after he left Italy for America, the man who cooks exquisite meals with natural ingredients saw his weight balloon to more than 370 pounds.
“I discovered the Oreo, which we never had in Italy,” Cozzolino, who stands 6-foot-6, told ABC News. “It was like an addiction.”
Along with the Oreos, Cozzolino consumed soda and fried foods.
Cozzolino was so overweight that he couldn’t even play with his son at the park. He no longer recognized himself in the mirror.
Faced with his doctor’s warning that he could have a heart attack, Cozzolino turned to what he knew best: food.
He cut calories, going back to a Mediterranean-style diet. And pizza.
Cozzolino ate pizza every day for lunch, but his homemade Margherita version used dough containing just four ingredients: unbleached flour, water, a touch of sea salt and a little yeast. It's topped with tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella.
"This is an old, three-hundred years ago recipe," Cozzolino said today on "Good Morning America." "We mix everything together. Settle there for 36 hours and then the gluten doesn't have anymore heaviness"
"It's ready to be easy to digest," he said.
Cozzolino's now-famous pizza measures about 12 inches in diameter and contains fewer than 600 calories.
By cutting his overall food intake to about 2,700 calories per day -– featuring a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fats -- Cozzolino says he lost 101 pounds in seven months.
The 38-year-old New York City resident now weighs about 270 pounds. He says the secret to weight loss is natural ingredients.
“I can tell you, when I go to the grocery store I always look at the label. If they have more than 10 ingredients, I give up,” he said.
Cozzolino says he also has his big meals at lunch - pizza - and breakfast - multigrain cereal with fruit, orange juice and coffee - and saves his smallest meal for dinner, usually a small salad with a side of a protein like seafood and a glass of wine.
ABC News' Chief Women's Health Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton says Cozzolino found success by following the key components of a successful diet.
"It needs to be safe. It needs to be simple and it needs to be sustainable," Ashton said today on "GMA." "The other thing, and Pasquale is a perfect example of this, especially with ethnic backgrounds, food should be pleasure. It should be nutritious and delicious."
Ashton said Cozzolino's daily habit of pizza may not be the fastest way to lose weight for some people but, like for him, it can work.
"It's definitely possible because at the end of the day it's about portion control and calories, energy balance," Ashton said. "I will tell you that most people will find it easier to lose weight quickly if they avoid the carbs like bread, rice, grains, cereal, pizza, but it is obviously definitely possible to lose weight, which is so important for your health, eating foods like this."