Pizza Walk With Me

Let's get hyped up over some pizza.

Pizza Rematch: Driftwood Oven vs Pizza Boat in the Pizza Dojo

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

There is a point in every city’s development where we hit maximum pizza. A city, for a short moment, becomes a temporary mecca. A spot where pizzaiolos travel to to forge a new path and hone their craft. This era of pizza development comes after years of stagnation. When a city is reduced to only flour and water. These creators are the yeast that balloon the city to pizza heights.

But, while that era is ripe with innovation and evolution, it breeds contention. Jealousy. Spite.

To settle these scores, pizzaiolos enter the Pizza Dojo. Two enter and, typically, two also leave, but one of these days I’m sure only one will leave. It’s bound to happen. But this latest Pizza Dojo was unusual. It was a rematch between upstarts (and rising stars) Driftwood Oven and the mysterious Pizza Boat, who dips in and out of hiding. Watch the video to see how it ends.

Slice Highlight: Slice on Broadway & Their Delicious Tomato Pie

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
Slice on Broadway Tomato Pie

Slice on Broadway is well documented for their craft and passion for pizza. Rico, the owner, routinely delivers a delicious pie. Whether he's playing around with artisan ingredients or serving up hundreds of slices to hungry Pirate fans, you can rely on Slice on Broadway's quality. When I saw they serving up sicilian pies at their PNC Park location I knew I had to stop down.

Sicilian Pizza is on the rise. I'm not sure if it's out of boredom, but I'm noticing more pizza makers experimenting with a dough that's ferments a bit longer and rises to the edge of a very deep pan. 

Rico is always tinkering around and his latest masterpiece is this Sicilian pizza that's only available on Fridays. 

Slice on Broadway Tomato Pie Closeup

Here's the Tomato Pie waiting to be plucked from it's habitat.This cross-section exposes every aspect of the pizza. The liquid parts of the crushed tomatoes have seeped into the browned crust, leaving behind a tomato laminate. On top of that is a healthy dose of parmesan cheese and oregano.

After one bite of this pizza you'll realize how flavorful a pizza can be without cheese. The sprinkle of parmesan offers a nice bite, but the crushed tomatoes mixed with oregano and savory crust fill your mouth with flavor.

Like any great sicilian, there's a nice crunch followed by a cushion of dough. Now, this isn't as soft in the middle of other sicilians I've had. It's actually quite hearty. It avoids tasting too much like a hunk of sourdough bread, which isn't easy to do.  As it turns out sourdough bread and sicilian dough are molecularly quite similar.

Tomato Pie Pizza in Box

I'd highly recommend the tomato pie to anyone that wanders into Slice on Broadway on a Friday. The crushed tomatoes are flesh and flavorful, and there's just enough seasoning to bring out bold flavors. 

Kudos to Rico and his team for delivering a delicious and well-rounded sicilian pie. I look forward to making Slice a part of my Friday lunch ritual!

Underside of Tomato Pie Pizza

Slicing it Up With Dan - VIA 313 Detroit Style Pizza

Pizza Review, Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

In this episode of Slicing it Up With Dan, I work my way through a "slice" of Detroit Style Pizza from VIA 313 in Austin, Texas. Now you may be asking yourself a couple of questions. What's Detroit Style Pizza? Is that a pineapple ring in the thumbnail of the video? How's the pizza in Austin, Texas?

A couple of pizzas ready for action.

A couple of pizzas ready for action.

Detroit Style pizza is famous for being cooked in square pans that are amazing at retaining heat. They push the dough into the oiled pans and heat them up. What you end up with is a sicilian-style pizza that's crunchier, a bit thinner and softer on the inside. The exterior of this pizza was my favorite part. It had a delicious, oily crunch that was very flavorful. Juicy in some ways. Like the interior crust was marinating in savory oils and cheeses all day.

VIA 313 has an eclectic menu, but they're most famous for their pepperoni pizza. There's two kids of pepperoni. One under the cheese (a shy pepperoni) and an extroverted pepperoni that sits atop the cheese. Despite the double-layer of pepperoni the pizza wasn't overly greasy. How they engineered that is beyond me.

VIA 313 The Detroiter

Despite all the tacos and meats I ate during my trip to Austin (a smoke turkey too!), I immensely enjoyed VIA 313. This is the kind of pizza that pairs well with an ice cold beer. The sauce is nice and zesty, the cheese is perfectly melted and that crust is divine.  Definitely check out VIA 313 if you get a chance. 

Fiori's Pizza - Revisiting Fiori's Pizzeria after a Four Year Hiatus

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
A bare, innocent slice of Fiori's pizza.

A bare, innocent slice of Fiori's pizza.

My first pizza visit of 2017 was none other than the legendary Fiori's Pizzeria in Brookline. Fiori's is one of the oldest, well revered pizza places in the city of Pittsburgh. So, when I asked Joey from the Vandal where he wanted to meet for a pizza adventure he said "Well, Fiori's." He also threw out Beto's, but let's be real, it wasn't a competition.

Four years have passed since I've been to Fiori's. Let's look at the slices of pizza side-by-side. A lot has happened in phone technology in four years, but dang do these slices look foreign.

Fiori's from 2013. Looks undercooked and sad.

Fiori's from 2013. Looks undercooked and sad.

Fiori's from 2017. Looks mega delicious with great lighting.

Fiori's from 2017. Looks mega delicious with great lighting.

2017 Fiori's is full of passion. That's a perfectly cooked pizza that's wearing a slightly charred bubble like a beauty mark. The cheese has browned nicely without losing any of its flavor. The 2017 pizza is what you see when you should see when you look up "Pizza" in the Pizza Bible.

Fiori's Pizza Brookline Pittsburgh

I'm not a fan of a sloppy pizza that can't keep its act together. I enjoy a pizza with confidence, and sturdiness that can support a myriad of toppings if put to the test. If your pizza collapses in half, creating a cheese avalanche and leaves you rushing for a fork & knife, you got a bad slice on your hands. Stability is key, else you spend time stuffing the guts back onto the pizza.

Last time I ate at Fiori's, four years ago, I wrote the following about its crust:

There’s some give to the crust, but not enough that leads to a complete pizza breakdown. You could build a house on this crust except you’d have to worry about a sinking foundation in about three years.
— Dan Tallarico, 2013

Fiori's still delivers a sturdy pizza. Hands down one of the most structurally sound pizzas I've encountered. I'm sure that pizza from my last visit would continue to be sturdy. You wouldn't have to worry about a sinking foundation with a Fiori's pizza house for ten years at this rate.

Last week I had Mineo's. The juxtaposition of these two pieces was a revelation. Mineo's delivered disappointed, flimsy slices that cried out under the pool of cheese and grease.  With Fiori's, the pizza is there to serve you. It is a finely built vessel that is capable of carrying cheese, sauce and toppings into its landing zone (your mouth).

Consistency is a hallmark of quality pizza. I can make a decent pizza in my kitchen 25% of the time, but to pull out a delicious, evenly topped pizza day after day, year after year is amazing. It's a testament to the craft behind Fiori's. They live to fix you up and I'm glad they're still fixing up Pittsburgh after all this time.

Fiori's pizza shines like the sun as a fluorescent ray strikes a small, quiet, pond of grease.

Fiori's pizza shines like the sun as a fluorescent ray strikes a small, quiet, pond of grease.

From crust to the tip, Fiori's delivers a complete pizza package. Last time I ate Fiori's, I remember the crust being a bit bland. That was not the case in this visit. After getting through the cheese and roasted red peppers, the crust was a delight to bite into.The carapace of the crust gave way to a soft cushion of dough. 

Fiori's is on the other side of the Liberty Bridge, not a bad drive. One of my 2017 resolutions is to visit Fiori's more than once every four years.

Get fixed up, get Fiori's. 

Slicing it Up with Dan! Episode 3: Mama Lucia's Pizza

Pizza Video, Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment

In this episode of Slicing it Up With Dan! I eat a slice from Mama Lucia's in Downtown Pittsburgh. Now, Mama Lucia's is an older pizzeria. If you walk a block in most directions of Mama Lucia's you'll stumble over the neapolitan and craft pizzas that litter downtown Pittsburgh.

Mama Lucia's is a bunker of nostalgia and authenticity. The pizza you begged to order every Friday night as a child is waiting for you in this pizzeria. They offer classic slices and Sicilian slices. I've been on the hunt for sicilian style slices of pizzas lately and couldn't resist chomping into one of mama Lucia's. 

The thicker crust was too bready and could have used more sauce. The chef may not have known that the thicker slice needed special attention. You can't treat it with the common-core of pizza education and expect it to come out as high quality of the thin crust. 

If you venture down the Sicilian path, pack a pepsi to wash down the dough. 

Mama Lucia's was a staple in my life growing up. My fondest memories are from visiting Mama Lucia's in the North Way Mall after seeing a $1 movie. I'd grab a greasy slice and dare myself to sprinkle as much parmesan cheese and red-pepper flakes as my body could digest. 

Here's a couple of slices from Mama Lucia's. 

Here's a couple of slices from Mama Lucia's. 



Slicing it Up with Dan! Episode 2: Driftwood Oven Pizza

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

In this episode of Slicing it Up With Dan! I eat a slice of Driftwood Oven pizza. This slice-eating takes place in the back of Spirit Lounge during one of the many Pizza Dojo competitions.

It was a stressful night for all participants. All eyes were on them and every pizza popping out of the oven had to be as amazing as the one before it. I don't know how often Driftwood Oven trains, but I ate about 9 slices of pizzas that night and the consistency was amazingly level. From the beginning to the end each pie was masterfully crafted.

A few things to note while you watch me eat this slice of Driftwood Oven pizza:

  1. I fold the pizza in half to start for a big bite, but some of the ingredients hang on for dear life. I have to perform a couple might chomps to salvage the toppings. Unfortunately, this leaves the rest of the pizza a bit bare.
  2. I love tearing up the last quarter of Driftwood Oven pizza. The dough is always soft, fluffy and tears nicely. The crust deserves to have a few moments alone.
  3. I'm washing down the pizza with an IPA from Pizza Boy Brewing. It complimented the pizza perfectly. A+ would wash down pizza with this beer again.

If you'd like to try a slice of Driftwood Oven, please find their schedule on their website

Introducing: Slicing it Up with Dan! Ep 1: Pizza Boat Pizza

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

In an effort to authentically document pizza, I've decided to focus on one slice at a time. Introducing: Slicing it Up With Dan. 

Slicing it Up With Dan is a documentary series helmed by yours truly. I have a few episodes queued up and I plan to publish at least 2 a month. Probably more as there is no shortage of pizza in my life.

The only thing stopping this pizza train is a willing camera person! 

Slice ya later!

Pizza Dojo 2016: Pizza Boat vs Driftwood Oven, Round 2

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment
Here we see a wild Driftwood Oven pizza (left) and a Pizza Boat classic (right). One of them may be using a performance enhancing crust.

Here we see a wild Driftwood Oven pizza (left) and a Pizza Boat classic (right). One of them may be using a performance enhancing crust.

Welp, another Pizza Dojo is in the books. I'm working on a video recapping the event with some amazing interviews. I have Dan from Pizza Boat talking some serious smack (most of the editing is bleeping him out), I have a bonafide Pittsburgh legend talking pizza / weather, and a guy that traveled from Boston to eat pizza. 

With a pizza dojo coming once a year, I wonder what happens when Pizza Boat clobbers all the other pizza fighters in their weight class? Will they depart Pittsburgh, looking for formidable opponents? Or continue to terrorize the local pizza makers. 

I was talking to Rico, from Slice on Broadway, and he asked me how he could battle in the Pizza Dojo. If anyone out there has an answer for him please get in touch. I'm sure he'll sign any safety waiver necessary.

Driftwood Oven's Pizza Dojo menu. Delicious and edgy with some clever names.

Driftwood Oven's Pizza Dojo menu. Delicious and edgy with some clever names.

Pizza Boat's spooky (and delicious) menu. Deceptive and full of tricks at every corner.

Pizza Boat's spooky (and delicious) menu. Deceptive and full of tricks at every corner.

The pizzas were off the chart. Pizza Dojo is a unique event in that it gathers the top pizza talent in Pittsburgh. It's convenient for me, a pizza journalist, and you, a pizza consumer. If there's ever another Pizza Dojo I'd like to see a three-way pizza off. Maybe it takes place in a steel cage? Or a pizza cage?

It doesn't take a pizza journalist to come to that conclusion. Everyone I asked had the same synopsis of the event: "well we all win." 

What's a Pizza Dojo without some Pizza Boy brewing beer? This keg kicked in about an hour into the event.

What's a Pizza Dojo without some Pizza Boy brewing beer? This keg kicked in about an hour into the event.




Bury Me with My Pizza Cutter

Pizza CreationsDan Tallarico1 Comment

More mysterious than transforming a bowl of water, yeast and flour into a soft, cushiony pizza with the perfect amount of crispness, is someone who can take metals and create a sharp, comfortable, hefty pizza cutter. 

I admire the human who can bend and mold steel into useful shapes. Bonus points if that person can create a tool that aids the pizza maker. 

Pizza makers don't need too many tools. It's a trade born from simplicity. But, when all is said and done you do need to slice and dice the pizza. Tearing is a novelty, but to produce those delightful triangles you need a pizza cutter. And here is where metal working comes into the picture.

My sister, in all her genius, went off-registry for our wedding and commissioned a metal working pal to build a pizza cutter. This is the first pizza cutter this guy has made, but I think he has a future in the pizza business. If he doesn't set up a booth at next year's Pizza Expo he's passing up gallons of free money.

PizzaCutter And Pizza

The pizza cutter is a crucial tool. The sound of the steel disc rolling through the crust, slicing open the crust, ripping through a pool of cheese like it was parting a great sea. It's carthartic for the cook - their task is done - and a signal to the pizza eaters that dinner is served.

But look at this custom made pizza cutter. There's not another one like this in the world. The steel is sharp, rolls right though any dough and leaves a valley of sauce, cheese and crust.


It's hefty and fun to hold. Having this in my kitchen makes me want to make more pizza so I have a reason to use it!

And here's the inaugural pizza that was cut with the pizza cutter. The pizza was amazing and earned high marks. I wonder if it's because of the pizza cutter or the recipe I used...

More on that pizza shortly. In the mean time, here's a video of the pizza cutter in action.



Pizza Review: Cappello's Gluten Free, Grain Free Cheese Pizza

Pizza ReviewDan Tallarico1 Comment
Cappello's Gluten Fre Pizza Review


Cappello's is a simple company with a simple mission - "To provide fresh, uniquely delicious options for gourmet food lovers, healthy eaters and people with dietary restrictions." It's with that mission in mind that they've created a suite of grain-free, paleo-friendly food, starting with the most important kinds: Pasta, pizza and cookie dough.

For Cappello's, that means throwing their hat in the Gluten Free Pizza Arena. A highly contentious arena full of peril and nay-sayers. But is their Gluten Free pizza enough to satisfy gluten free folks and pizza enthusiasts alike? Could this be the pizza that unites the world of pizza lovers? 

Here, we'll be talking about the Gluten Free, Grain Free Cheese Pizza. It's a frozen pizza that embodies simplicity. Inside the box you get a pizza that can feed one and is a great snack for two. On the box itself, you get a great drawing of a dinosaur in a suit. You can color or draw on this dinosaur while you're waiting twenty minutes for your pizza to cook.

Real quick aside about cooking times - obviously, times will vary with each oven, but I found the crust charred up much earlier than expected. Half-way through baking I moved the pie to the top oven rack which solved the problem, but keep an eye on the pizza.

Christa poses with the Cappello's frozen pizza.  As you can see, it's a nice size for two people to snack on.

Christa poses with the Cappello's frozen pizza.  As you can see, it's a nice size for two people to snack on.

Let's start with the crust. Some may say this is the most important part of the pizza. After all it supports the rest of the toppings, cheese and sauce. Without a crust you have a puddle of goo. The Cappello's crust forgoes traditional flour and uses arrowroot flour, coconut flour, honey and cage-free eggs. 

Eggs in a pizza crust is unusual. There's no need for eggs in traditional pizza dough and I'm guessing Cappello's added eggs in to hold the mixture together and provide a bit of protein.

Aside from eggs, you're missing out on yeast. While you have a bread substitute, there's no rise happening. You shouldn't expect a network of gluten, a soft crust, or a soft chewy cushion to accompany the crunch of a crust.

Nope - you're getting a crispy, crackers crust. There's a sweet flavor to the edge that blends nicely with the sauce and cheese. I'm not sure the crust could stand on its own, but with its teammates of cheese and sauce, you get a solid package that would be a comfort after a long day. 

Here's the Cappello's pizza fresh from the oven. It's charred in some places and tan in others.

Here's the Cappello's pizza fresh from the oven. It's charred in some places and tan in others.

The sauce is more line line with what you'd expect from a frozen pizza. It's not too sweet, but has a garlicky zest. Combined with a layer of melted cheese and you'd need to hire a pizza detective to pick this gluten free pizza out of a lineup of standard frozen pizzas.

The crispy, crackery Cappello's Gluten Free Pizza is a fine substitute for a gluten filled pizza as long as you're okay with thin crust. I prefer my pizza with a nice rise, but this gets the job done in a pinch.

Cappello's Pizza with added soppressata. No gluten network here, but nice and thin.

Cappello's Pizza with added soppressata. No gluten network here, but nice and thin.

It's a fine piece of pizza engineering that duplicates the fundamental pizza archetype. You get a solid crust, sauce and cheese that will fill a pizza sized hole in your stomach. Whether you enjoy gluten or not, I'm sure you'll enjoy a Cappello's pizza.

I'd recommend this pizza for when you're hosting mixed company of gluten-free / pro-gluten folks. Watch as each guests cautiously chews the pizza, wondering if what they're eating has gluten in it. It will forever be a mystery that perplexes guests as they leave your home. 

And that's a strange compliment to give a pizza. Perplexing. But for a product that is trying to be pizza without a key ingredient that we all recognize in pizza, Cappello's successfully imitates the art of pizza. 

Pizza Expo Correspondence - The Final Day: Tony G Keynote, Home Slice Pizza, Nick from Caliente

Pizza ExpoDan Tallarico1 Comment
Banner showcasing Tony G's book, The Pizza Bible. Photo by Tom Tallarico.

Banner showcasing Tony G's book, The Pizza Bible. Photo by Tom Tallarico.

Hi, this is Dan, editor at Pizza Walk With Me. I've sent Tom Tallarico, my father, to Pizza Expo to cover the event on my behalf. When he isn't scoping out buffets he's working on getting hot scoops and details from the Pizza Expo show floor. Here's his summary of day 3 of the expo. He somehow found a treasure trove of hot dogs. Imagine that! You can read his Pizza Expo Day 1 recap here and Pizza Expo Day 2 recap here.

Tom Tallarico, Pizza Walk With Me Associate Journalist.

Final Day of Pizza Expo

During the week, each day kicked off with a keynote speaker. I was able to attend today & am pleased to hear Tony Gemignani.  Previous speakers were Adam Goldberg & Fabio Viviani,  Pizza giants in their own right. I had met Tony G. in Pittsburgh during his “Bible” book promotion about a year ago at Caliente’s in Bloomfield (more on them later); I had spoken to him briefly early in the week so I felt fortunate to hear him speak. His success & accomplishments are well known & during his talk, one really gets a sense of his intense passion for his craft as well. Highlights from his Keynote:

  • Started in the biz in 1991 with his brother after High School.
  • Traveled the world over the next 16 years learning about Pizza.
  • Started winning World championships in 1995 thru 2001 before being “banned” from competition to allow others to have a chance.
  • Started his focus on food & the US team & founded US Pizza Team.
  • Started experimentation with “new concepts” to take Pizza a “step beyond”.
  • In 2000 on his Honeymoon in Naples, fell in love with Pizza all over again after experiencing the Pizzas of the old country.
  • Continued the journey developing the Neapolitan style & founded the International School of Pizza.

Tony also spoke to his work ethic starting with working with his grandfather on their farm as well as the importance of maintaining authenticity, consistency & the development of new styles to “make it better.” His talk also included various tips & suggestions for any shop owner striving for success. Above all “Respect the Craft”.  I found it to be quite a story; very inspirational.

So after the keynote, the day continued with re-visiting exhibits & observing the finish of the Pizza competitions.

Tom Cortopassi talking sauce with Tom Tallarico. Photo by Tom Tallarico

Tom Cortopassi talking sauce with Tom Tallarico. Photo by Tom Tallarico

Final Day Pizza Expo Highlights:

After the keynote, I spotted a gentleman with a Caliente shirt. It was none other than Nick B., owner. We talked about his place & the success & the great improvement in the food since he took over Caliente 2-3 years ago.

Nick gave me the news that his chef, Eric Von Hansen had won the Pan Pizza competition at Pizza Expo. Quite a thrill! Neat story is that Eric & Nick were childhood friends. Eric is a classically trained chef who was executive chef at Lucca in Oakland. Nick recruited him to Caliente & after some coaxing Eric joined the team & is now making History.

During the keynote Q & A a question came from one of the mangers of Home Slice in Austin, Texas. I realized, Heck, I know that place. While visiting Austin last April, my hotel was just up the street. I made multiple visits during the week & actually went there for my souvenirs. Pizza was excellent; Tony acknowledged it was one of his favorites. Charming place with much character. Had a nice chat with the threesome. Two of the 3 were from the Philly area of all places.

The 3 Home Slice Fellows, they own a pizza shop in Austin, Texas. Photo by Tom Tallarico.

The 3 Home Slice Fellows, they own a pizza shop in Austin, Texas. Photo by Tom Tallarico.

Finally during the week I had a chance to talk with Tony S, a young & future  Pizza  king from Chicago who has developed a relationship with Tony G. He suggested Tony has been very gracious with advice as Tony S. proceeds on his life Pizza journey. He attended The International School of Pizza & is continuing his work in Chicago with plans to eventually run his own shop(s). One can really feel his intense passion about the craft. I hope to visit his store when I return to Chicago in the near future. Good luck to him!

Well, with all that, this ends my reports from the Expo. Truly an enjoyable experience!!



Pizza Expo Correspondence - Day 2: Bring the Feed Bag, NEW Pizza & Pizza Trends

Pizza ExpoDan Tallarico1 Comment


HI, this is Dan, editor at Pizza Walk With Me. I've sent Tom Tallarico, my father, to Pizza Expo to cover the event on my behalf. When he isn't scoping out buffets he's working on getting hot scoops and details from the Pizza Expo show floor. Here's his summary of day 2 of the expo. He somehow found a treasure trove of hot dogs. Imagine that! You can read his Pizza Expo Day 1 recap here.

Tom Tallarico, Pizza Walk With Me Associate Journalist.

Day 2: So today was the opportunity to view the exhibits & attend seminars. I’ll first mention that this show is as big as it gets. I’ve attended various Corporate Conventions & this EXPO takes a back seat to no one.

Half Eaten Hot Dog from Pizza Expo. Photo by Tom Tallarico

Half Eaten Hot Dog from Pizza Expo. Photo by Tom Tallarico

The exhibits include food vendors, shop owners & equipment manufacturers. What sets this convention apart from others are the exhibitors not only show or demo the products but actually use them. The benefit is a large array of tasty samples of all kinds that are available. Anything from various pizza types, charcuterie, desserts & even America’s #2 favorite: Hot Dogs along with burger sliders.

Bring the feed bag.

In addition, the unique  attractions of the various Pizza competitions (Pizza Challenge, best pies in different categories along with Pizza skill competitions) is quite entertaining. Then include the various demos for new pizza styles along with seminars with a wide range of topics & you have a well-rounded, comprehensive, entertaining Convention.  

Glenn Cybulski talking new pizza, old in

Glenn Cybulski talking new pizza, old in

The seminars I attended both touched on a similar topic, i.e. new Pizza trends as the craft continues to evolve. The first with speaker, Glenn Cybulski, a Pizza guru in his own right was titled New Pizza, Old Ingredients which focused on creative ways to develop & kick up new Pizza tastes using common  ingredients already in the kitchen.

The focus was substituting the typical tomato sauce with other inventive sauce types. The examples demonstrated were a Cilantro sauce (Serrano peppers, honey, balsamic & EVOO), a Pepperoni sauce (Genius!!; using pepperoni, yellow peppers & mayo) & a Peppadeaux sauce (using the pepper & mayo). Adding some cream or butter to the blended contents completes the tasty sauce.

Now, add preferred toppings which appeals to the eye & you have a NEW PIZZA.  Another benefit here is a premium charge can be justified. Glenn left the group with the comment, “That’s what the Pizza Expo is all about: Come, Create & Share Ideas”. 

Pizzas at Pizza Expo. Photos by Tom Tallarico

Pizzas at Pizza Expo. Photos by Tom Tallarico

The next session “Pizza Trends 2016: Hot foods & Flavors” & Unique Dining Experiences in Nontraditional Settings” was presented by Nancy Kruse, a reviewer of food & marketing trends. Opening comments included the fact that Pizza is “surging”; is America’s #1 Comfort Food & while Pizza shops account for 10% of restaurant types, Pizza menus are the 2nd most popular menu type. 

Reasons include:

1. The American public prefers real food; fresh toppings & sauces with rich flavors.

2. Fresh MTO preparation; daily dough prep. 

3. Use of seasonal & local ingredients.

4. Clean foods; non-processed, hormone free, Organic.

5. Improved Marketing;”Tell your Story”.  This was actually started & perfected sometime ago by ARBY’S.  

A lot of this relates back to Glenn’s presentation defining “New Pizza”. Tomorrow’s session, Day 4, starts with  7:45 keynote speaker with Tony G. 

Look forward to that. Will need to stay out of the casinos after 11 PM.

Local Pittsburgh Pizza Maker Wins Best Pan Pizza at International Pizza Expo

Pizza ExpoDan Tallarico1 Comment
Here's the pizza makers of Caliente at Pizza Expo. Photo by Tom Tallarico.

Here's the pizza makers of Caliente at Pizza Expo. Photo by Tom Tallarico.

Pittsburgh pizza stature continues to rise, like a ball of dough that's bulk fermenting. During the 2016 International Pizza Expo, of which my dad is covering, one of Caliente's chefs, Eric Von Hansen, won the title for World's Best Pan Pizza.

If I gave out awards, Caliente Pizza & Draft House would receive the "Best Unassuming Pizza Parlor" award. If "pizza" wasn't in the name you'd figure their menu would be bursting with tacos. It's what's inside that matters, and in this instance Caliente now boasts a world class award winning pan pizza. 

Here's Eric posing with his award winning pan pizza.

Here's Eric posing with his award winning pan pizza.

The pizza itself is a gourmet duck pizza called "The Quack Attack" (or "Duck Duck Pan"). The pizza is made up of:

  • Pan dough is infused with a Yards IPA. 
  • Roasted garlic butter and fresh chives
  • Pan seared duck breast
  • Wild mushroom ragu
  • Roasted shallots
  • Baby arugula
  • Fontinella cheese
  • Organic tear drop tomatoes
  • Truffle oil and roasted garlic oil fused together

After listing these ingredients a judge responded, "Please cut this up immediately,"

 Caliente plans to add this pizza to their menu when they return from the Pizza Expo. 

You can watch a video of Eric preparing his world class pizza on Caliente's Facebook page.

Caliente is located in the heart of Bloomfield, on Liberty Ave. They fit the landscape perfectly; Caliente boasts a superb and extensive rotating list of beers and pizza that's both affordable and delicious. Definitely worth visiting.

What do you do when you're crowned the world's best pan pizza? Do you celebrate by having a large pizza party? I'll get to the bottom of this.




Pizza Expo Correspondence - Day 1: Nostalgia, Common Pizza Mistakes & the Wynn Buffet

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

HI, this is Dan, editor at Pizza Walk With Me. I've sent Tom Tallarico, my father, to Pizza Expo to cover the event on my behalf. When he isn't scoping out buffets he's working on getting hot scoops and details from the Pizza Expo show floor. Here's his summary of day 0 and day 1 of the Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.

Tom Tallarico, Pizza Walk With Me Associate Journalist. 

Day 0: As the Expo nears, I recall early on how Pizza was always a part of growing up. Of course, Amato’s in downtown Etna was a constant destination. A Friday treat was always going out to a restaurant for Pizza. And during the high school years, the gathering place after games was always some pizza shop. So anticipation for the Expo not only generated a high degree of excitement but memories of Pizza days past as well.  

The top mission on Day 0 was to obtain the media pass. So once settled in the hotel, it was off to the Convention Center. Getting the pass was simple so mission accomplished early on.

pizza expo press pass


Some initial seminars were an hour or so from starting so I decided to check out the Exhibit Hall. With 16 hours before the official open, activity was high as setup looked to be about 60% completed. That documented, the opportunity to attend some initial seminar sessions was taken.

The 1st related to marketing of the Pizzeria; & not just the product.

The 2nd session was a panel discussion with the topic  “Common Pizzeria start-Up Mistakes & How to Avoid Them.” This was most interesting with the crowd fully engaged. The moderator was Jeremy White, editor of Pizza Today & the panel included luminaries Tony G., Pizza Godfather, 2 successful shop owners from Colorado & Scott Anthony from Punxsutawny. This was quite exciting with my roots also from Pa & with distant ties to Punxy. I had recently talked to a Punxsutawney native. We somehow started talking Pizza. He suggested there were many shops in Punxsy but only 2 or 3 of any quality. I’m betting Punxsy Pizza was one of them. Needless to say, the session was quite interesting as the panel shared their growing pains & the steps taken to overcome them.

pizza expo flyer


Day 1: Well, some weeks ago the editor of PWWM wondered aloud why his Dad often emphasized the beauty of the buffet. He then went on to write about the wonders of the Spirit Sunday brunch buffet. Well, due to prior commitments the closest I came to the subject of Pizza was this: 

Wynn Buffet Pizza

This was just a small part of the Wynn buffet which included Prime Rib, Roast Turkey, a full Asian station, Charcuterie, Quail & Duck dishes, extensive shellfish entrees, etc. etc. And the Pizza wasn’t bad at all.

Unfortunately, wasn’t able to attend the sessions. Was looking forward to attending a Panel discussion on Wood-Fired Mobile Pizzerias & a session on “Maximizing Your Ingredient List”.  However,  that speaker, Glenn Cybulski, has a session tomorrow titled “New Pizza, Old Ingredients” which I plan on attending along with sessions “Pizza Trends 2016: Hot foods & Flavors” & Unique Dining Experiences in Nontraditional Settings”. The day concludes with the Pizza Expo Block Party & World Class Pizza Games Finals. Stay tuned.


Pizza Expo Correspondence - Day 0

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

Well. There's my badge. Right now it's in Vegas, gallivanting around on a neck that isn't mine. It's my dream to attend Pizza Expo and report on the finest pizza technologies, interview pizza innovators and document the Olympic Feats of pizza. While I couldn't make it this year, my dad was more than eager to take my place. 

When he isn't investigating buffets for his rival blog, Buffet Eat With Me, he's rubbing elbows with pizza elite. In his first day he somehow managed to find the author of The Pizza Bible, Tony Gemignani! 

Tom Tallarico and Tony Gemignani

That's my dad, Tom, on the left with pizza legend, Tony, on the right. Of all the hotel lobbies in all of Vegas, right? The press badge holds a mystic power to draw you to legends. It certainly seems to be working in this instance.

Amateur Pizza Journalist Tom Tallarico did send me some notes from his first pizza seminar. These are updates from "Finding Customer" with my comments in italics.

Differentiation Be different than other pizza places. But how - ranch on the pizza? Hm.
What are you selling besides Pizza, No, Pizza is only a Tool. Sell community? Or pleasant memories?
Have a selling proposition
Sell the 2nd visit!!!!! "Here's a magnent, tell your kids I say hello." This works on my dad.
Focus within a 1-2 mile radius Great advice for city pizzerias!
Who are your customers; what are their expectationsHungry people who expect pizza. Obviously.
If you know what customers expect & like, you'll know where to find them. Marketing basics, I love it.
Then train staff to appeal to themA friendly staff is 99% of the reason I like a pizza place.

My dad sent over a shot from the expo floor. There's all sorts of ovens and machinery ready to woo pizzaiolos from across the globe.

Over at PIzza Expo

And day 0 wouldn't be complete without running into another pizza celebrity: Scott Anthony. I met Scott when he coordinated Tony's Pizza Bible tour in Pittsburgh. He's an award winning pizza maker with an outstanding pizza place in Punxsutawney.

Scott Anthony Pizza Expo

Stay tuned for more updates from Pizza Walk With Me at Pizza Expo!

Pizza Taglio's Sicilian Pizza

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment


Tony at Pizza Taglio is constantly testing out new things in his pizza kitchen. Some days he'll bring out a plate of cheeses from exotic locales, other days he's working on perfecting a calzone filled with ricotta and nutella. 

I was lucky enough to be hanging out in Tony's kitchen the night he made Sicilian pizza. The dough rose for two days and was cooked in a pan, giving it a crispy exterior and a soft interior. With a smile on his face he told me how bewildered pizza eaters are to find that the cheese goes underneath the sauce in a Sicilian pie. 

Pizza Taglio Sicilian Pizza

"Little do they know it's to prevent the cheese from burning." Genius. And look - it bubbles up to the top naturally.

You can watch a video of the pizza being made up above. It's a tiered process—as the pizza cooks you add more items on top of it. In total it took about 20 minutes to cook a single pie.

I couldn't keep my mits off it. It was crunchy and soft. The sauce was made a few hours before. The sauce contained a single anchovy. I don't know if it made a difference, perhaps because the total package was so delicious. I didn't have time to think about the effects a single fish could have on an amazing pizza. Thinking about it it possible a single fish could impact the flavor of the pizza? Hmm...

Pizza Taglio Sicilian Crust

I hope this becomes a staple of Pizza Taglio's menu. It's the perfect pizza to share with pals. As you work your way towards the center you find yourself in the midst of a pizza mess. Sauce and cheese gloop every which way. It's then that you drop your guard and simply enjoy the pizza. No need to worry about a mess or looking good for whomever. A deliciously sloppy pizza will warm your spirit and instill pizza confidence into your soul. 

Super Bowl Pizza - Iron Skillet Sfincione Pizza

Dan TallaricoComment
Pizza for Super Bowl Sunday


Hey, the big ol' game is looming on the horizon. You have a pizza strategy? I'm sure you do. Between take & bake pizzas, pizza chains, frozen pizzas and local pizzerias, you have an unlimited amount of pizza options. But if you want something special, you should consider making your own Sfincione pizza in an iron skillet. Here's what the end result looks like:

Sfincione Super Bowl Pizza

Because you cook the dough in an iron skillet (that you fill with olive oil) you get a thick pizza, the depth of your skillet, that's soft on the inside and fried on the outside. 

It's the perfect companion to your Super Bowl case of beer. Just look at this molten mess.

Here's the recipe I used for the dough. The dough has a higher hydration (around 70%!) which makes the dough super hard to work with. That's why using the iron skillet is nice. After the dough rises for about 12 hours, plop the dough into the skillet. Let it fill the space, add olive oil, and toss it in the oven!

It's simple and guarantees that your team will win. Here's the evidence:

Endlessly Eating Pizza at The Spirit Lounge Sunday Pizza Buffet

Dan TallaricoComment

I don't know the science or philosophy behind a buffet. I don't know why my dad goes to Las Vegas and spends the majority of his trip trying to optimize time in front of a buffet. I'm not sure how a business makes money off a buffet. But I do know that during my time at Spirit Lounge's Pizza Buffet, held every Sunday from noon to 4pm in Lawrenceville, I kept saying "This is the best $11 I've ever spent." 

I'd look up from my tray, which at times held between one to four slices of pizza, and say "Can you believe this is only $11?" 

If you were patient and timed your buffet visits as new pizza was brought out from the back, you could eat two boxes of Slice Island pizza in an hour's time. 

Is the end game to introduce new folks to Slice Island pizza? Or make money off of drinks? Pizza is a loss leader, but when it's high quality pizza you have to wonder if anyone is losing out. 

The Spirit Lounge Pizza Buffet



Spirit Lounge is a mix of old ideas with a modern spin. Their building is an old Elk's lodge, with a similar ambience, but it's home to dance parties that end by 10pm, political rallies and some of the best pizza in Pittsburgh thanks to Slice Island in the back. 

They've extended this updated thinking to the buffet. Their Sunday Pizza Buffet embodies every trope from your buffet youth; you'll find plastic trays, a DIY salad area, a smattering of "appetizers" like scones, gravy, sausages, french toast sticks, and of course pizza. Unlike the out-of-place pizza at a Chinese buffet, these slices are the marquee dish. 

Here's a hot pizza buffet tip: grab a fresh tray, skip everything before the pizza and try to pile as much pizza onto your tray as you can before feeling embarrassed. Here's why:

  • The pizza is the name of the game. It's the gem of the buffet. It's highly coveted and we all know that we're there for those rectangular slices. Plus, they pair nicely with a brunch coffee or a bloody mary.
  • It goes fast. Once 12:45 hit the buffet was at max capacity and the kitchen could barely keep up with pizza demand. I don't know how sustainable it is, but anytime a new tray of pizza was brought out there were already vultures hovering around the heat lamps. This pizza was dead on arrival. 
  • There are typically three varieties of pizza waiting for you at the end of the pizza buffet. To quell any regret from the previous night and to ensure your Sunday gets off on the right foot, you'll need to eat one of each. 

The Best Thing to Happen to Pizza Buffets Since Pizza Hut

I rarely visit pizza buffets, mostly because I prefer my pizza fresh from the oven. In my youth I'd beg for the Pizza Hut buffet and more recently I visited a Pizza Roma buffet that could easily be mistaken for a living wake. Who's wake (mine or the pizza) I'm not sure, but it was sad.

Since demand is high, the pizza turnover is efficient. You don't have to worry about getting a lukewarm slice of pizza. It's the highest quality buffet pizza I've had, and more than worth the price of admission (which I still can't believe it's $11).

The only thing missing was the weird experimental pizzas. An odd-ball pizza like buffalo chicken, hamburger pie, taco slices, are more than at home at a buffet. At least they can try to replicate the bizarre dessert pizzas that the Pizza Hut buffet is famous for. 

I won't rest until there's a dessert pizza at the end of the Spirit Lounge Pizza Buffet.

The Spirit lounge Pizza Buffet is a row of excellence. From start to finish it's endlessly satisfying and tests your restraint as much as it pleases your palate. 

You can find more information about the pizza buffet on Spirit's website. Or follow Spirit on Twitter


Mastering the Pizza Master Class - Day 2 Recap - Degassing Dough and Making Sauce

The Pizza BibleDan TallaricoComment
Pizza Master Class 2.jpg

Want to read Day 1? Click here to learn about making the dough and the intricacies of the Master Class.

Day two of the master class tests your dexterity as well as your patience. While the first day is simply adding items into a mixture, day 2 has you handling the dough and delicately forming round balls. 

Day 2 of the master class is all about the air. Step one is removing the dough from the fridge (after 24 hours) and degassing the dough by mixing it for about one minute. This deflates the dough and makes it more compact. You're preparing the dough to build a strong gluten network. In a strange way this is the same as Obi Wan saying, "If you strike me down I'll be more powerful than you can possibly imagine." But replace "powerful" with "glutteny."

Once your dough is deflated and separated into two masses, you'll need to carefully ball the dough. Tony spends 200 words and six photos detailing how to fold the dough in on itself in order to preserve the gas inside the dough. It's critical that you ball the dough tight to lock in gas. A tight seal promotes a vast gluten network that traps air released by the yeast. The trapped air causes the dough to rise. 

dough balls from the pizza master class

I was nervous handling the dough. How was I supposed to know if there was a leak? I pinched ends close as tight as I could and prayed the pizza gods would smile down on my feeble attempt to trap air inside a ball of dough. I honestly wouldn't know the results until the next day. To distract myself I made some sauce for tomorrow's pizza.

The sauce is super simple, as all good sauce tends to be. The small amount of ingredients in sauce would shock you. It's not some elaborate brew with garlic boiling and fanciful olive oils. A good sauce stems from fresh tomatoes (usually from a can, according to Tony), salt and olive oil.

For this sauce I mixed together some peeled plum tomatoes, olive oil, salt, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes to make a vermillion mixture that any pizza would be proud to host. 

I tossed the ingredients in a pulsing blender and pulsed for about 30 seconds. I ended up adding a bit more salt, but nothing too crazy. You end up with a simple sauce that complements the dough, but doesn't get in the way of the other flavors. 


Here's some takeaways from day 2

  • When you degass the dough you're supposed to hear popping. I heard no such thing, but my dough was compact and ready to mangle. 
  • The ball forming process is a bit stressful, but (as you'll find out soon) it's hard to get wrong if you're careful with how you handle the dough. Be sure to fold it back in on itself and don't tear any of the dough!
  • The best sauce is simple sauce. You want the tomatoes to sing on their own. It's their time to shine, don't clog the spotlight with other flavors. Add some olive oil and salt to draw the tomato flavor out.

Endless Pizza Buffet Officially Launches at Spirit Lounge in Lawrenceville

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment

When I my grandmother babysat me years ago I had two objectives. 1) Convince her I needed to go to Children's Palace because there was a video game I just wanted to "look at" then hope she bought it for me. 2) Drop hints about the gorgeous, plentiful Pizza Hut buffet until we decided that it wasn't worth it to cook and we should head to the buffet post-haste. 

These days it's hard to find a pizza buffet that's worth the caloric assault on your body, that is until Spirit Lounge (located on 51st street in Lawrenceville) came along to change the buffet game. Spirit's Slice Island has been experimenting with a Sunday pizza buffet for months. Now, they've finally perfected the formula and are formerly launching their buffet tomorrow, January 17th

From their press release, "Each week a variety of food options are available, including pizzas with veg and meat toppings, biscuits and gravy, sausage, french toast sticks, salad, granola, yogurt, quiche, potatoes, and desserts."

Here's why this pizza buffet is the dopest thing you can do on Sunday between noon and 4pm. 

Pizza Sign in the depths of Spirit Lounge

Loyalty Program

Along with the official grand opening of the buffet, Spirit is rolling out its Spirit Brunch Club. You'll receive a Brunch Club card that's stamped whenever you visit. Rewards include free brunch, Spirit Brunch Club t-shirt and a Club Card after five brunches. Who knows what awaits at brunch #10!

Pizza by Slice Island

Slice island makes some crispy, delicious, fresh and cheesy pizza. I've eaten a whole box of their pizza by myself simply because my body craved the flavor. The opportunity to eat an endless amount of their pizza for the low price of $11 is ludicrous. I don't know how they'll stay in business with a buffet of this caliber firing on all cylinders. 

Music by a suite of Pittsburgh DJs

Enjoy the tunes of local DJs spinning tracks that help you digest food just a bit faster. Here's a schedule of DJs for the coming month:

  • James Gyre on 1/17/16
  • Ricky Moslen on 1/24/16
  • Jordan Weeks on 1/31/16
  • J. Malls on 2/7/16
  • V-Day Brunch with Zombo on 2/14/16

This brunch sounds like a winning combo - when you add in a rotating option of bloody marks and mimoas you've just found yourself in brunch heaven

A couple of slices from Slice Island