Return to Pizza Dojo - Meet the Combatants


The Return to Pizza Dojo (Why they didn’t spell it dough-jo is beyond me) is this Friday, July 25. I wrote about the feud between Pizza Boat and Bread and Salt last week, but I wanted to get to know the entrants a bit better.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. These are pizzaiolos that are willing to do nearly anything to win this competition. Empires have been won and lost on pizza competition, and this is no exception so you know tensions are high.

Both Pizza Boat  and Bread and Salt’s response to “tell me about your role in the Return to Pizza Dojo” reads like fan fiction from an episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw  but instead of wrestling they’re making pizza.

Too good to edit, here’s what they had to say about the competition.

The “mysterious” Bread and Salt on pizza, pizza dojo, and life lessons

Who I am and my background are of little importance. There is no Pizza but the Pizza. The Pizza is of importance. I serve the Pizza. I pray five times a day with my face turned towards Naples. I only wish to express and share the true nature of the Pizza. Everything else is falsehood and frivolity. I need no strategy. The boys on the Pizza Boat mean well, but do not know the true depth and power of the Pizza. Their boat will sink. Friday, all will bear witness.

Really blows open the whole Return to Pizza Dojo.

Here’s Jeff from Pizza Boat on Bread and Salt and childish antics

Bread and Salt is Rick Easton, a transplant from Virginia and a guy who can bake sometimes, if someone provides him the means. And we can just assume that Joey Hilty is part of his camp at this point too. Joe’s a Livermore henchman who originally came up with the Pizza Dojo concept and pitched it to Rick, Matt, and I as a collaborative project to bring the oft-feuding pizzaiolo community together in order to push each other further creatively. But as the night of the initial Dojo drew closer, Rick and Joe veered off course unfortunately, resorting to the childish antics you’ve been seeing online.

I feel like Matt and I are pretty easy going, and we can take as much trash talk as we dish out, but Rick’s been taking things increasingly further, recruiting help online—essentially Twitter trolls to come up with his retorts. He said he’s even paying for designers to photoshop images for him in order to try and humiliate us that way too. Not sure where he got the money for this… from what I understand he’s been living off of Livermore’s scraps and whatever he can manage to get off of us for free—which we’re about ready to cut him off from.

Not to say that we’re frightened. We’re just annoyed, and it’s kind of sad. I mean this is an adult. At first we kind of looked up to him. But to threaten to poison our starter, sneak salt into our tomatoes, and urinate in our sanitizer bucket, is a little beneath where we thought his constitution lays. I think something must have cracked in his head— from the loneliness, malnutrition, the fact that his bakery STILL isn’t open, who knows. I’m sure his life is stressful, and thank god these nights have been cool so it’s actually probably comfortable for him to sleep out on the street.

Our plan is to take the high road during the Dojo, of course. We’ll plan a couple pizzas that we’ve been testing and hope people will enjoy and respect, hope to gain some respect from Rick and Joey (if they have any at all to give), and have a good time slinging some pizzas, because that’s what’s fun for us, and exhibiting that along with the discipline involved is what Pizza Dojo should be about.

Will there be blood at this event? Steel chairs? A cage to fight in afterwards? I’m sure at least two of those are a certain. 

The Return to Pizza Dojo takes place Friday July 25, at 6pm in the Bar Marco lot in the Strip District. If you enjoy pizza in the slightest you need to be there to witness Pittsburgh Pizza History.

Spend ten minutes of your day to learn more about Bill, the fifty-two year old pizza delivery guy for Best Pizza in Brooklyn. 

Bill delivers by bike, which is interesting in itself. But he’s a showcase for the pizza delivery lifestyle. The money is great. Better than most other jobs. But is it sustainable? Should a fifty-two year old still struggle to make ends meet? Is he too old to deliver pizzas? 

There’s a glamour to pizza delivery that fades over time. I spent a few formidable years of my life delivering pizza for Vocelli’s and a few local pizza shops. The stacks of cash you bring home is bewildering. Over $100 for driving around in a car! There’s nothing better than counting out at the end of the night. 

But you get bitter. You see people just for their tips and a bad tip is like burning the roof of your mouth on a hot slice of pizza; it takes days to heal and leaves you generally unhappy. 

The streets will run red with blood and sauce - two Pittsburgh pizza upstarts ignite pizza rivalry


For a long time Pittsburgh has suffered from stale pizza competition. Well, lack of competition, really. There’s the “Mineo’s vs Aiello’s” battle, which has become too convenient for the common Pittsburgher. If there was actually competition between the two we would see pizza innovation! New recipes, new technology. Instead, it’s the equivalent of two old folks sitting on opposite porches groaning at each other. 

But lately, there’s been a slight shift in the pizza scene. If the wind is blowing from the Strip District in just the right way, you can smell the innovation of Pizza Boat. To quote myself, “I predict big things coming from [Pizza Boat] in the future.”

For the past few weeks they’ve killed it next to Bar Marco. Cranking out some of the best pizza Pittsburgh has ever seen. Fresh, smart, and just perfect. It introduced a level of pizza that blows the standards out of the water.


But there’s a  competitor in town that is willing to answer the call for pizza competitors: Bread + Salt.

I don’t know too much about Bread + Salt. I know they competed in the first pizza dojo. And I know they love trash talking. Exhibit A, B, and C:

The Return to Pizza Dojo will open old wounds, stuff them with fresh basil, and cauterize the wound shut with some hot mozzarella. In the wake of the Pizza Dojo  will be sauce, dough, cheese, and a few bruised pizzaiolos.  And you need to be there to witness it on Friday, July 25th, at Bar Marco.

But this is the price of progress. This is what it takes to spur the Pittsburgh pizza landscape that’s willing to crown a pizza place other than Mineo’s as “the best pizza.” This is the beginning of a long pizza journey, young grasshopper. 

Greetings from Di Fara pizza in Brooklyn.

Backwards Pizza? A Return to the Pizza Dojo? What Could It Mean?

Today I saw a retweet from the folks at Pizza Boat from the Bread and Salt Twitter account.

That graffiti is mysterious to say the least. Is this the first we’re seeing of a Joker-caliber villain who’s running a secret pizza cartel here in Pittsburgh?

The image looks like a royal pizza cutter. A scepter that is used to both rule over royal subjects and cut a royal pizza. Perhaps a throw back to Queen Margherita, the namesake of the classic margherita pizza. 

Just when I thought I was beginning to grasp the concept, I received these replies:

There’s some Zodiac Pizza Mystery stuff happening here. But we’ll get to the bottom of this, and the pizza dojo, one way or another.

twerkspotting said: Have you been to Mandy's in Squirrel Hill? Thoughts on vegan za in the city?

I’ve not been to Mandy’s in Squirrel Hill—did that place just open? They have a place in West View I’ve driven by a number of times prior to my pizza journalism days. 

I’ve reached out to them for an interviews, always interested in hearing about specialty pizza. As far as vegan za, I’ve never had any in Pittsburgh. Though, I hear that Spak Brothers can deliver a vegan pizza that is indistinguishable from the real stuff.

Anonymous said: Hi. I've checked out your site a few different times. I enjoy it a lot. I'm originally from Pittsburgh and have a couple suggestions for places that are definitely worth trying. Both are in Ambridge; a small town in Beaver County, past Sewickley, on the Ohio River. Frank's Pizza and what is known as "Police Station Pizza". Very different, unique and both great. Frank's is my all-time favorite pizza. Let me know if you want more info. You need to try both.

Thanks for visiting and re-visiting! 

Oh I’m familiar with the Ambridge area, though I’ve not had any of those pizzas. My pizza pal, Adam (who introduced me to the superb Anthony Jr’s in Coraopolis) has told me I need to check out both those places.

It’s on my list and something I need to plan this Summer. If you have any specific toppings or style of pizza I need to try from these spots, let me know. 

Much like the Midwest, the traditional pizza you find in downtown Chicago is wide, flat, and boring.

This pizza is from Pizano’s. There’s a few in the Chicago area. Their claim to fame is that they were “featured on Oprah.” In what capacity I do not know.

Was their shop in the background during a remote segment? Did Jim Carey, willing to do anything for a laugh to reignite his career, bring a Pisano’s pizza onto the set? We may never know.

But I do know that this pizza would have a hard time sticking out on the east coast. There was a cardboard characteristic to the crust, and the cheese simply sat there. It was charmless and was the closest thing to a corpse I have ever eaten.

I ended up leaving three quarters of the pizza in my hotel refrigerator. I’m sure whoever cleaned the room was insulted that this pizza was left as a tip.

Perhaps their deep dish pizza is where they put all their effort. Why bother to impress an obvious tourist with a flat pizza who will only compare it to the superior easy coast slice? It’s a lose-lose.

Pisano’s may have a stellar deepdish and I simply chose poorly. Perhaps someone out there can testify that Pisano’s is worth visiting? Oprah, I’m looking at you.

You can see your reflection in the grease gathering on the top of the cheese as if this Mineo’s Pizza was the meeting place for “Grease Convention 2014.”

And right now I’d do anything to attend that conference.

You can see your reflection in the grease gathering on the top of the cheese as if this Mineo’s Pizza was the meeting place for “Grease Convention 2014.”

And right now I’d do anything to attend that conference.

Piece Pizza in Chicago defies the Chicago tradition. In a way, their wood fired, traditional, flat pizza makes peace with the deep dish pizza Chicago is known for.

Piece serves up some of the thinnest slices I’ve seen in this city. But it’s not floppy and hard to wield. I don’t know what they do to their crust, but it’s firm enough to support a variety of toppings. The unusual crust that is both delicious, crispy, and an excellent foundation.

I was half expecting to find thin strings hanging from the ceiling, supporting the pizza like a puppet. But there was no trickery to be had, just fine craftsmanship.

You can see a cross-section of the pizza in the first photo. Notice the narrowness of the tip. It bulks up at the end giving the pizza patron a delicious handle. The crust was moist, glistening with the perfect amount of oil making it easy to swallow up every bit of the pizza without also having to consume a cup of water with each bite. This pizza basically uses your esophagus as a slip n’ slide into your stomach.

Accompanying the pizza is beer brewed by Piece in their brewery next door. It’s no secret that beer and pizza are the perfect tag-team. I was hoping for a more detailed recommendation to go with my pizza. “Ordering sausage? The hoppy IPA brings the sausage to life in your mouth!” Would have been nice (and weird!) to hear from the waiter. But who am I to complain about a delicious assortment of beer?

Piece brings the essence of east coast pizza to the heart of Chicago. I’m hoping this is a sign that we’ve all realized what a joke deep dish pizza is and we can all move on as a society and return to enjoying pizza the way it was supposed to be: flat.