Pizza Walk With Me

Let's get hyped up over some pizza.

Women in Pizza, the Next Wave of Pizza Makers at the 2018 Pizza Expo

Pizza Essay, Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

There's a 99% chance the last time you bought a pizza you encountered only men. The pizza industry is dripping with men as much as it's dripping with grease. I grew up working in pizza kitchens and the women in those kitchens were few and tortured. They had to put up with a boy's club full of dick jokes and abuse. It's not pretty.

But that's all changing. As Ann Kim, owner of , says, "Women are having their moment now." 

At the 2018 Pizza Expo I had the opportunity to talk with a number of women in pizza who are absolutely killing it. Giorgia Caporuscio is one of the very few certified women pizzaiolos. She's turned her focus on teaching other women how to make great pizza and break into the industry,

Nicole Bean operates shops in Texas with her family and is dead-set on hiring more women workers.

Ann Kim, a keynote of this year's Pizza Expo and owner / executive chef at Lola pizzeria, is leading by example. She's making great pizza, opening up shops and diving into this industry head first. Her pizzeria in Minneapolis is considered one of the best in the world.

The problem, as they see it, is that women have been driven away from pizza shops. Hostile, maybe, but definitely gross. There's also a stigma that this is a job for guys - but why? It's baking, cooking, precision and tasting. Skills anyone can develop and hone over time.  

Hopefully as more women get into the industry it becomes easier for others to follow. In Pittsburgh we are beginning to see more women leading pizza shops (Dinette being one of the most successful, lead by Sonja Finn and of course the newly opened Michigan & Trumbull which Kristen Calverley co-owns), but we still have a ways to go. 

Pizza Expo 2018 - Tom Tallarico Bids Farewell to the Expo Hall and Meets Pizza Celebrities

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

Hi folks! This is Dan Tallarico, Editor at Pizza Walk With Me, with another recap from our columnist, Tom Tallarico. This is his third and final dispatch from the 2018 Pizza Expo. While we won't hear about the rest of his Vegas trip rest assured it included a number of buffets and hunks of meat! If you'd like to start at the beginning you can read his prequel/first day recap of Pizza Expo here. His second day recap is available here!

Day 3 continues with the International Pizza Challenge & the World Pizza Games along with informative seminars & cooking demos; most documenting the Evolution of Pizza.  I’ll first mention that the convention seems to be getting bigger every year. The exhibits (food, food, food) have been documented in the past. This year’s array of foodstuffs is more opulent than ever.  And it seems there are more local Pittsburgh Pizza Makers here than ever. Good to see. 

Attended a morning seminar; “New Twists on Old Appetizers” conducted by frequent contributors Glenn Cybulski & Mike Bausch.  The new “twists” involve Garlic Knots which are fried instead of baked to reduce prep time, utilizing Portabella Mushroom Caps stuffed as you wish & ingenious Eggplant Parm where Eggplant is sliced, covered with Panko & deep fried. Slices are then lined up with alternating Mozz slices, covered with sauce & sprinkled with Parm/Romano. 

Pizza Expo Appetizers

A big kick for me was having a chat with Nick Coniglio from Brooklyn & Williamsburg Pizza.  

Williamsburg Pizza

Nick was Pizza Maker of the year in 2016 & Brooklyn all the way. He is a colorful character with a witty sense of humor along with an intelligent passion for Pizza making. He actually spent some significant time in Pittsburgh in his formative years before returning to Brooklyn to become a Pizza hero. Actually got a picture taken with him. He seemed pleased to hear that it was going on my “Celebrity Wall” between Ditka & Jon Stewart. He then repeated Ditka, Ditka, Ditka with the typical Chicago emphasis. Look forward to visiting on next visit to NYC. He conducted the seminar “My Champion Pizzas”.  I documented last year’s seminar. I recall his key points along with his delightful presentation style; much humor with even more valuable information: 

Nino’s Pizza rules include:

  • Put ingredients on evenly (very, very important).
  • Don’t overload the pie.
  • NO Dried Rosemary (not sure if this is a rule or a pet peeve).

By Day 3, the Pizza Challenge is at its peak. Following are examples of the competitive Pies in various categories.

The Big News today is that also competing & Winning is Eric Von Hansen from Caliente’s. Today, Eric won Northeast title for the Non-Traditional Division.

Pizza Expo Non Traditional Division Results
Eric Von Hansen Caliente Pizza

Of course, as documented, Eric won the overall title of Champion/Non-Traditional Division in the finals on the following day. Congratulations, Eric! That makes 2 overall Championships in 3 years; Champion in the Pan division in 2016. Very exciting & quite an achievement. 

Day ended with another stroll through the Exhibit Hall for final snacks. I believe a Steak dinner is in my immediate future before one last day at the Expo tomorrow. 

Pizza Expo Pizza Challenge
Pizza Expo Pizza Challenge

Mike's Hot Honey - Pizza's Perfect Condiment

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

 

When that pizza comes out of the oven and is garnished by whatever pizzaiolo is behind that counter, I consider that pizza finished. Pizza isn't home to too many accessories outside of a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or chili flakes. Pittsburgh, of course, has a rich history of serving pizza with a side of ranch dressing for dipping. But, it wasn't until Pizza Taglio opened that I tasted, what I would say, is the perfect companion to pizza: Mike's Hot Honey.

Mike's Hot Honey is exactly what it sounds like; it's honey that has chili flakes soaking in it. The result is a dressing that, as Jim would say in the video above, a bit of heat and a bit of a sweet. 

Mike's Hot Honey got it's start in Paulie Gee's, a pizzeria in Brooklyn. The creator of Mike's Hot Honey, Mike Kurtz, was inspired by a creation down in South Africa. Mike discovered this in Brazil when he was hiking through the mountains and discovered a mysterious village with a more mysterious Brazilian pizza parlor. In that pizza place they were soaking chilis in vats of honey - Mike was inspired and brought the idea back to the United States.

Mike's Hot Honey Pizza Expo

When he became a pizza apprentice at Paulie Gee's he created the Hellboy - a pizza drizzled with this hot honey. It was an instant classic. Somehow, the honey outshines the pizza and customers demanded to have the honey on its own. Not one to argue with customers, Mike began to bottle and sell Mike's Hot Honey on its own.

It's rare for a single topping to outshine a pizza itself, but Mike's Hot Honey is a unique creation that should be in every pantry across the globe.

Here in Pittsburgh Tony Giamarita pays homage to Paulie Gee's with his Greenpointer pizza. It's my favorite pie at his shop and is topped with mozzarella, spicy clabrese sopressata and a generous drizzled Mike's Hot Honey. While this pizza can sometimes gives me heart burn it's too delicious not to order. It's a staple of my visit to Pizza Taglio and one of the best pizza's in the city.

 

Pizza Taglio Greenpointer

Pizza Expo 2018 - Tom Tallarico Explores Buffets and Meets Pittsburghers on the Show Floor

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

Hi folks! This is Dan Tallarico, Editor at Pizza Walk With Me, with another recap from our columnist, Tom Tallarico. After this article I now have about 12 photos of buffets saved to my desktop! If you'd like to start at the beginning you can read his prequel/first day recap of Pizza Expo here.

With Day 2 of the EXPO comes the opening of the Exhibit Hall including Food
Suppliers, Equipment Manufacturers and to the crowd’s delight, samples that
their products produce, i.e. pizza, charcuterie, macaroni, olives and food, food, and
more food. Yesterday, as we were checking the progress of the Exhibit Hall set-
up, the security guard suggested, “Don’t bring your lunch”. A new attendee asked
“Why?” This is why:

Buffet Pizza Expo.png
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Even Jersey Mike made it this year. Where’s Jimmy John’s? Next year?

The first Demo I attended showed the relatively new, popular Pizza al Taglio or
Roman-style pizza; a classic type from Italy. Conducted by Christopher Anitnucci
and Giulia Colmignoli, a couple which grew up in Rome. They relocated to San
Diego and operate Napizza, specializing in the Roman-style.

The key ingredient is a unique flour which is rich in protein, made in small batches & cold stoned milled such that the germs survive. This flour type is very difficult to find domestically.
The result is an airy, light, crunchy crust which is easy to digest. Dough ferments
for 72 hours; massaged lightly to retain and redistribute CO2 bubbles and bakes
before final toppings are added, then re-baked. For toppings, they suggested “the
Sky’s the Limit”. Great Advice!


The result at different stages:

Taglio Expo 1.png
Taglio Expo 2.png
Taglio Pizza 3.png

 

Truly excellent taste & texture!


Earlier in the day, I could tell Dan was quite impressed with the scope of the
EXPO. I remarked that perhaps sometime in the future, he might be a panel
speaker. Well guess what? Later that afternoon:

Danny T 2.png
Danny T.png

Dan was invited at the end of the session, “Make Yourself a (Social) Media
Magnet conducted by Scott Anthony. Dan was asked to speak to the impact of
on-line advertising in various forms. Generated quite a bit of interest from the
audience trying to find ways to promote the business.


In addition, a very nice outcome of the session was being approached by Pizza
makers that were originally from Pittsburgh and now reside in Charleston, SC.

Steel City Pizza.png

Still involved in multiple Pizza shops, Steven Carb of SERG Restaurant Group, the
gentleman on the right grew up in Squirrel Hill and started working at Mineo’s in
High School. Having some background at Mineo’s myself, we both had a great kick
from reminiscing about the owners and especially THE MAN there at the time, Joe
Aiello, a top Pizziola in the city for years. I got to know Joe very well, way back when and Steve remarked that Joe got him off the ground with his first shop in
California years ago.

A very nice touch to end the day. Tonight, we’re having
dinner at Pizza Rock, Tony G’s place in downtown Vegas. Very much looking
forward to that.

Caliente’s Eric Von Hansen wins the 2018 Non-Traditional Pizza Competition at the 2018 International Pizza Challenge

Dan TallaricoComment
IMG_1289.JPG

Once again, Eric Von Hansen adds another trophy to his pizza trophy case by winning the  Non-Traditional Divisional Championship at the International Pizza Challenge. Similar to his win for Best Pan Pizza (The Quack Attack) in 2016, Eric has created a supremely decadent pizza to take home first place.

This non-traditional pizza is a combination of elegant ingredients, some with a price tag. The richness of the pizza is rivaled by the rich flavors topping the crust. The pizza is topped with:  

  • Roasted Shallot black truffle creme fromage
  • Bing cherry simple syrup
  • Fingerling potatoes roasted in duck confit
  • Lemon thyme
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Waygu Beef ($88/pound)
  • House made Amish bleu cheese, Wisconsin cheese with blueberries  

With his second win, Eric has proven to be a true pizza artist. He is more than capable of filling the crusty canvas with a combination of toppings that sound surreal but blend seamlessly together.  

The challenge ahead is to see if he can translate this masterpiece into an affordable pizza for the customers at Caliente’s. 

A Customizable Pizza Vending Machine - The 24/7 Pizza Box

Pizza ExpoDan Tallarico1 Comment

Over the years of operating this site, I’ve been sent videos and links about vending machines that dispense pizzas. They come in all shapes and sizes: some pizza vending machines will take a par-baked crust, squirt some sauce on the roasting dough, and sprinkle cheese. Others heat up a stored product. The 24/7 Pizza Box is the latter.

The 24/7 Pizza Box is a white label solution for pizza vending machines. Any pizza shop can buy one (or many!) of these machines and fill it with slices of their own pizza like a pizza pez dispenser. Then, the pizza shop scatters these pizza machines throughout their city or town and wait for hungry patrons to swipe their card and buy the pizza. Simple and convenient.

A Pizza Vending machine is a novel concept, and while there are nice fantastical reasons you’d deploy these, there’s too much of a downside. The pizza isn’t cooked well, too greasy, taste like reheated pizza, etc. The cost of quality isn’t worth the cost of convenience - if it was wouldn’t every gas station be rolling in pizza profit?

I spoke with Shawn of the 24/7 Pizza Box and he reassured that there’s a number of customization options so a pizza shop can dial in the device to their liking. Still, at the end of the day you’re buying a reheated slice from a vending machine. 

In some situations a reheated slice of pizza will hit the spot and I suspect we’ll see them on college campuses or inside bars if anywhere. The slice I had out of this machine was swimming in grease, a bit cold in the middle and flopped like a dead fish. Hopefully there’s some tweaking that can happen behind the scenes to bring these slices back to life. Maybe some pizza defibrillators attached to the side of the machine?

Pizza Expo 2018: Tom Tallarico Arrives in Las Vegas

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

The following is a column written by our new columnist, Tom Tallarico (previously associate editor). Tom Tallarico has a lust for pizza and Las Vegas that can hardly be contained in single post. Enjoy his writing and please help me understand why he refers to me as a "webmaster." 

Prequel/Arrival: Hello, everyone; I’m baacckk. As the Expo was approaching this year, I was with Webmaster Dan for a visit to see Tony at Pizza Taglio in January. We were reminiscing about last year’s Expo as Tony had also attended. On the way home, I said to Dan, “Heck, I’m going back; this event is too good to miss for so many reasons.” The Big News this year is Webmaster Dan is also attending for the 1st time as you’ve probably already noted. As Dan has reported, over the last 12 months, the Pizza growth in Pittsburgh has been amazing. “Tony Taglio” won a local best Pizza award, Caliente, a perennial winner at the EXPO opened a 4th shop (in my neighborhood, Aspinwall; MMmmmm) & Driftwood Oven has moved into a permanent location in Lawrenceville. Dan has most recently reported a renaissance in Pittsburgh with Detroit style; more on that later.

For me (and others), part of the charm of the Expo is the Las Vegas setting. No surprise as this town is the US Convention mecca. On Monday, we took an early 6:20 flight to arrive at 8:00 AM. Greeted at the airport by a new & old “Welcome” 

signs:

Welcome to Las Vegas Old.png
Welcome to Las Vegas New.png

Then headed to the hotel, dropped bags at off to the convention center where valet Mark noted Dan’s hat & assumed he was a Gonzaga fan. This was the first reminder of everything else going on in the city, NCAA Sweet 16 Madness,

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March Madness 1.png

 

 AND OF COURSE, the BUFFETS. 

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But enough of that for now. The first mission upon entering the Convention Hall is getting the Badge. The last 2 years, as Dan was not coming I was using his badge. But this year:

Tom Badge.png

 

My own badge. Perhaps, the last 2 years never really happened?? At any rate, with nothing happening yet, we proceeded over to the café for much needed coffee as NAPTIME thoughts were already dancing in our heads. Curiously enough, we spotted someone in a Penquins shirt. I approached him to chat wondering who this might be. None other than Pete Tolman, owner of the increasingly popular Iron Borne, a big part of the Detroit Pizza movement in Pittsburgh. Interesting background in that he was a classically trained chef with a background in fine dining whose credits include time at Nemacolin. Anyone heard of Latreauc?  He had no background in Pizza but decided to go with it & the Detroit style after enjoying it at a shop in Colorado(??) called Brown Dog.   

Pete Iron Born.png

After a nice chat, we headed to a seminar conducted by John Gutekanst, owner of Avalanche Pizza in the college town of Athens, Ohio. Titled Finding Your Niche; Using Creativity, Absurdity & Street Smarts. The title speaks for itself & the content lived up to it. The underlying theme was to Try anything once to market your shop even if it scares people. Core values are Passion, Love, Creativity & Knowledge. 

That brought the first day to an end at the Expo except for checking on the progress of the Exhibit set-up. 

  Editor's Note: This is not the Pizza Expo exhibit hall.

Editor's Note: This is not the Pizza Expo exhibit hall.

Schedule.png

 

So far, so good. We all recall what goes on at the Exhibits???  More on that next time. 

  

Pizza Expo 2018: Touring the Exhibit Hall, Meeting Pizza Legends, Pizza Robots and Free Pizza

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

A brief recap of Day 2 of the 2018 International Pizza Expo

Hi there! This is Dan Tallarico, your favorite pizza journalist, with a recap from day 2 of our visit to the 2018 International Pizza Expo. You can read our day 1 recap here if you want to get up to speed on our pizza adventure thus far.

This expo is huge. From end-to-end I swear it's a mile long. Each row is home to pizza ovens, baking sheets, cheese suppliers, tomato vendors and all sorts of fringe pizza technology and services. It's overwhelming, but we've done our best to bring you a cross-section of the expo. It's impossible to see it all. Or eat it all, but we are doing it for you.

Watch our Day 2 Recap Video here or keep reading for a rundown of highlights.

Pizza Legends Cooking on the Show Floor

The Pizza Expo exists to elevate pizza craftsmanship and help pizza makers make the best pizza and share ideas. So, you have pizza legends like Tony Gemignani and Graziano Bertuzzo cooking on the floor like it was another day in the kitchen. These two are trailblazers in the world of pizza and have helped spread new techniques and information about how to make better pizza.

 Graziano Bertucco showing off a pizza he made that's engineered to reduce starch.

Graziano Bertucco showing off a pizza he made that's engineered to reduce starch.

Detroit Style Pizza

In 2009 no one outside of Detroit knew what Detroit Style Pizza was. Now, Pittsburgh  has two Detroit Style Pizza shops and many more are peppered across the nation. This movement was started by Shawn Randazzo, president of the Detroit Style Pizza Company.

Shawn loves Detroit Style Pizza and when he first entered the World Pizza Competition he was surprised to see no one else knew about his region's pizza. So, he spent years being the Detroit Style Pizza ambassador. The tipping point for his movement was when he won the World Pizza Championships in 2012 with his Detroit Style Pizza. Now the World Pizza Championships are filled with variations of the pie.

Through his efforts and passion, Shawn has helped Detroit Style Pizza get on the map. He frequently travels the globe to help aspiring Detroit Pizza folks dial in their technique. I shot some video with his crew so look forward to that!

Gluten Free Pizza

Gluten Free Pizza is growing in popularity as more people pay attention to what they're putting into their bodies. As Graziano Bertuzzo said, "You aren't what you eat, but what you digest." Among the traditional pizza companies, the show floor is home to new gluten free pizza ventures. And great news - the pizza taste pretty good.

A gluten free pizza category was added to the World Pizza Championships and I heard that spots filled up pretty quickly. If you're into the gluten free lifestyle you'll be happy to know that there's some quality pizza coming your way.

 Pittsburgh Pizzaiolo, Kevin Konn, cutting into a mozzarella, broccoli rabe pie. 

Pittsburgh Pizzaiolo, Kevin Konn, cutting into a mozzarella, broccoli rabe pie. 

 

Day 3 Ahead!

That's all for now - I have a ton of photos and videos to get together, so stay tuned for those updates in the coming days. 

 

 

Mercurio's Wins 5th Place in the Napoletana Division of the International Pizza Championships

Pizza News, Pizza ExpoDan Tallarico2 Comments
The Mercurio's Crew after their fifth place finish

Michael Mercurio, of Mercurio's pizza in Shadyside, has placed 5th in the Napoletana Division of the International Pizza Challenge. The competition for this is fierce as Michael was competing with seasoned pizzaiolos from across the globe. This competition was so tight that Michael missed out on 3rd place by 12 points and first place by 31. It was one of the closest competitions the judges have seen as the quality of neapolitan pizza continues to grow.

"When I discovered I came in fifth place I was blown away," Michael Mercurio said. "I can't wait to come back next year and compete it again, gonna bring a victory back for Pittsburgh."

Mercurio's award winning Neapolitan pizza

The pie Michael submitted to the judges is a picturesque neapolitan pizza. Perfect leopard printing, an even layer of sauce and dollops of cheese smoothly melted into the pie. It's a remarkable pizza that can go pizza-to-pizza with just about any other neapolitan pizza across the globe.

This is another great pizza accolade for the Pittsburgh Pizza Community.

 

 

2018 Pizza Expo: Traveling to the Expo Highlight Reel

Pizza Essay, Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

Traveling to Las Vegas has been a bit exhausting. Since it's not about the destination, but really the journey, I thought I'd chronicle our first day of getting to Las Vegas and struggling to ham it up for the camera. 

It wasn't all an exhausting waste, we actually had a number of great conversations and captured quality content with the attendees here. Off the top of my head, here's some articles you can look forward to:

Pizza Expo International Pizza Challenge

I spoke with Jeremy Galvin at length about the International Pizza Challenge. He orchestrates the event and has been handling the logistics for a few years. In his words, the point of this challenge is to "elevate the pizza craft." It's basically an arena of pizza makers trying to out-pizza each other. 

Jeremy told me that the non-traditional categories fill up quick and the event is truly international as competitors fly in from all over the world to compete. Gluten Free and Sicilian / Detroit Style pizzas are bubbling up in popularity this year, so look for those!

Iron Born Visits Pizza Expo

Our associate editor, Tom Tallarico, spotted a young pizza maker in a penguins shirt. After talking a bit he found it was the owner of Iron Born pizza, Pete Tolman. Pete talked with us about his goals for Pizza Expo, how it took him years to get his dough to where he wanted it, and what the future of Iron Born pizza might look like.

He was also pretty stoked about the panel on whether or not a 24-hour fermentation has benefits on dough. Funny how I haven't had a chance to catch up with him a mile from my house, but we have no problem chatting 3,000 miles away from home.

A Young Pizza Competitor

I've been following the career of Anthony Scardino since Tom reported on his pedigree a few years back. He's competing in his first International Pizza Challenge this year and, at the time of this writing, is balling his dough up for this week's competition. What a guy!

We had a few minutes together to take a selfie and do a short interview. I'll be picking his brain about pizza, competing, and the pizza expo family in the coming days.

What to expect from Pizza Walk With Me at the International Pizza Expo

Pizza ExpoDan Tallarico1 Comment
International Pizza Expo

Wow, it’s finally here. Pizza Walk With Me’s third International Pizza Expo. Pizza Expo is home to the World Pizza Games, pizza innovations, hundreds of vendors and an event that basically turns Las Vegas into a huge Pizza Think Tank. Talk about paradise. 

In the past, I’ve sent our associate editor (and my father) Tom Tallarico. He brought back hot scoops and breaking news about Caliente winning the Pizza Championship in 2016, a photo with pizza Trail Blazers like Tony Gemignani and Scott Anthony, and he has gotten me enrolled on several vendors mailing list. Thanks Dad!

But this year we’re doubling our staff - I’m heading out to Las Vegas on Monday to attend my first ever Pizza Expo. Together this Father and Son Pizza Duo will bring you amazing stories about up and coming pizza makers, we’ll deliver breaking news faster than you can heat up a Freschetta, and produce a couple of videos with pizza royalty. Here’s a preview of some of the coverage we’re looking to bringing your way.

The International Pizza Challenge

When people ask me what goes on at the International Pizza Expo one of the things I always bring up are the pizza championships. While there’s also the World Pizza Games, which focus on talent and dough tricks (like box folding), the International Pizza Challenge. There are a number of competitors that enter the International Pizza Challenge vying for the best pizza in a multitude of pizza categories. It’s an amazing event because it brings together the variety of pizzas that have evolved and sprouted across the United States.

Divisions are broken up by traditional, non-traditional, pan, pizza napoleteana and gluten free. It’s a swath of categories that cover everything from Detroit Style pizza to the pizza that was perfected in the heart of Italy.

I plan to follow a couple of different pizza contestants, one of which is Anthony Scardino. Scardino is a seasoned pizza veteran who has spent the past few years bringing an eclectic bout of pizza to life in Chicago. Everything from Bonci to Sicilian Style. He’s so thorough in his experimenting that he has earned / given himself the name Professor Pizza. I’m looking forward to the experiment he brings to the International Pizza Challenge!

The Women of Pizza

Women of Pizza at Pizza Expo

 

Did you catch the Ugly Delicious episode about pizza? Cool. The most amazing part of that episode is how they managed to talk to only dudes. It’s an industry of old white guys, that’s for sure. 

Luckily, the show will play host to showcasing some of the women in the industry. On Wednesday we’ll be heading to the show floor to talk with some of these women, learn their stories, what made them get into this industry and where they see the industry growing.  Here’s who we’ll be talking to:

Giorgia Cporuscio - Possibly the only female pizzaiolo in the US!

Laura Meyer - A winner at the International Pizza Expo and trained under Tony Gemignani.

Ann Kim - Owner and chef at three pizza shops in Minneapolis. Winner of best new restaurant accolades. 

Jeanette Catena - Educator and trainer of a variety of different pizza styles in the United States. Founded Pizzeria LUNA in NJ.

Nikki West - Chief Experience Officer of NYPD Pizza in Phoenix, Arizona.

Nicole Bean - An owner of pizza restaurants in Houston, Texas, serving both Detroit and New York Style pizza.

Awesome line up of women and I can’t wait to hear their stories and share them with the world.

Pizza + Social Media, a Match Made in Heaven

Scott Anthony, a seasoned leader in the pizza industry and owner of Punxy Pizza in Punxsutawney, PA, reached out to me about his session helping pizza owners improve their social media presence and outreach to pizza journalist like myself.

Scott has been in the industry for years and can’t sit still. He’s always jetting around to pizza events across the country helping to spread the word and passion of pizza. I’ll be stopping by his session to pick his brain and get his thoughts on the current pizza landscape. 

Lots of Pizza

Pizza Expo is home to pizza innovations, cutting edge techniques and huge personalities. I’ll do my best to capture exactly what’s going on in the Pizza Industry and do my best to see what the next big thing is going to be. Will it be Detroit Style Pizza, which has its own session on Thursday? Or maybe a new type of cheese or a baking technique? 

Stay tuned for more pizza highlights. Don’t want to miss an update? You can follow Pizza Walk With Me on Instagram at Instagram.com/PizzaWalkWith. Don't forget to sign up for the mailing list to get hot scoops and hot pizza news delivered right to your inbox!

Badamo’s Pizza on the North Side: A Delicious Combination of Passion and Perfection

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
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Let me tell you when I first ran into the Badamo’s crew because it contextualizes their aura.

I was at the Michigan and Trumbull pop-up at the Vandal, an event that was packed with people pushing to the front for Detroit style pizza. I was helping to take orders for the evening, bustling around, weaving between people when someone from the kitchen shouted they were out of takeout boxes. A critical component was missing, we needed to fold pizza boxes stat.  So, the Badamo crew, who are waiting patiently to try this pizza ( who have probably spent all day prepping dough, getting restaurant in order, and all the other things that come with making pizza) and these dudes just start folding boxes. Like box folding addicts, they can’t stop. No shrugging, no fussing, they were eager to lend a hand and help out. 

And their pizza is a personification if that sentiment. Friends building some great. A family of pizza makers, a pizza that you want to share. 

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I visited their newly opened location on the North Side. It's a small joint, but full of charm. The waiting area was filled with soon-to-be-regulars waiting for their Friday night order of pizza and hoagies. In their display case were an assortment of specialty slices. Perfect if you want to mix-and-match some slices to accompany your evening hoagie. 

I stuck with a fresh pie which came out piping out from the oven and appeared to be expertly cooked. I mean, look at that crust!

 Above you can see a practically perfect in every way pizza. The crust is the right kind of brown, charred in the right spots, and you have an even layer of cheese that covers the sauce just so. 

Above you can see a practically perfect in every way pizza. The crust is the right kind of brown, charred in the right spots, and you have an even layer of cheese that covers the sauce just so. 

Like a fool I grabbed a pizza and a hoagie to eat by my lonesome. The life of a pizza journalist.

One bite in and I was already dying to tell my pals about the pizza.I was enjoying. The sauce was tangy, not too sweet, and the cheese masterfully held everything together. Half the pizza contained sausage and green peppers. Both these toppings were fresh and fairly distributed without stealing the pie spotlight. 

The pieces folded easily, but I noticed the bottom was a bit too pale. It could've spent a minute or two on the hot side of the oven. I reached out to Badamo's and they confirmed that this happens sometimes saying:

A lot of times with the deck ovens if you're blasting the ovens with pies all night the stone cool down and you get more top heat than bottom stone heat. Therefore, it didn't get it's color. Normally if I notice that, I'll slide it to a spot that hasn't had a pie on it to get the bottom dark as well.

With a new oven on a busy night, there's a learning curve to baking pizzas. I'm really impressed with the insightful comment they sent back too. The folks at Badamo's really get pizza. They're in the pursuit of perfection but know that there are bumps along the road. Sometimes that's a pizza that's not perfectly cooked. And that's a-okay.

I look forward to going back to see how they've grown.

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Badamo's pizza is reminiscent of the local small-town pizza shop, but with a level of perfection. It's an elevated version of the pizzas I grew up eating (Luciano's and Monte Cello's to name a few). It's comforting in its shape, but has a depth of flavor that those suburban flagships are missing.

I bet these guys grew up eating similar pizzas and thought, "Hey, we can do this." Add in a unique level of passion and a pursuit of perfection and you have one of the tastiest pizzas this side of the Allegheny. 

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Pizza Review: Roberta's Airt-Tight Wood Fired Margherita Pizza

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment

Roberta's pizza has thrived in Bushwick on a foundation of quality and freshness. Their business infrastructure was built organically over the course of a year where the Roberta's crew had nothing but close friends and family to rely on. In the Roberta's Cookbook there's a rambling introduction that tries to tell the Roberta's story (they note that it's a story still being written). While trying to capture the spirit they write, "To experience Roberta's, you have to visit it." And now you can purchase a vacuum sealed pizza of theirs in the freezer section of a local Whole Foods.

It's curious that a pizza place that relies so much on experiencing the environment of Roberta's would be one of the first to have their Margherita pizza sealed and sent across state lines. If so much of what makes Roberta's great is the atmosphere and making memories with friends, what good is a pizza divorced of that? 

While it may seem like a cash-in you'll be happy to know that this pizza actually holds up. Most frozen or reheated pizzas have a lingering taste about them. It's the taste of age, or a lack of freshness, that is entirely edible but in a different pizza class of its own. This Roberta's pizza came bubbling back to life after a mere three minutes in the oven. I let it loiter in the oven for a minute longer for extra crispiness. While the pizza was missing that pop of freshness, it is a solid Neapolitan pizza. 

 Here's the pizza after spending a few minutes in the oven.

Here's the pizza after spending a few minutes in the oven.

The puddles of cheese held dribbles of olive oil, the sauce was simple and tangy. The pizza was a near perfect facsimile of the one that comes out of a Roberta's oven. Which makes sense as these pizzas are cooked and immediately packaged, freezing a pizza in time until you're ready to open the delicious time capsule. The Margherita is a perfect canvas if you want to add your toppings and doctor up the pizza. The pizza is perfectly balanced as is, and the sauce shines through, but feel free to add a sprinkle of meat.

They did their best to put a quality Margherita pizza into the wild. But the question remains: if you need to visit Roberta's to experience Roberta's, why package the pizza? The Roberta's cookbook was written a while ago and maybe they wised up. Maybe they want to spread their passion for pizza and open up the opportunity to gather with friends and make their memories in their homes. Or parks. Or wherever. The pizza is what draws friends and family together. It doesn't matter where it's eaten, as long as it's eaten with your pizza pals.

Roberta's air-tight Margherita is the king of the freezer section pizza. If you need a Neapolitan pizza in a pinch you can't go wrong with this package. It retails for ~$10 at Whole Foods or you can spend $70 to have it shipped from your door from Gold Bely's

Pizza Remix: Get Pumped Up with Driftwood Oven's Archer Pizza

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

A muse can take many forms. For some it's a beautiful partner, always lingering at their side with wisdom and guidance. For me it's a perfectly baked pizza and amazing lighting. I had extra footage from my visit to Driftwood Oven's new spot in Lawrenceville so I put it to some tunes. 

Enjoy the video and if you've had a chance to make it to Driftwood Oven for their soft opening let me know how you enjoyed it!

A Video of Driftwood Oven's Permanent Location in Lawrenceville

Pizza Video, Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment

It's no secret that I adore Driftwood Oven's pizza. I spent a lot of money on gasoline chasing them around to every corner of Pittsburgh. But most of their travels have come to an end as they've settled on a permanent home in Lawrenceville.

They've taken up residence at 3615 Butler St (the old Matteo's spot) where they'll be slinging 16 inch pizzas with a full bar and a roof over their heads. Three years of hard work to sell pizzas and an amazingly successful Kickstarter is really paying off for Neil, Justin and the whole Driftwood Oven crew. 

I was lucky enough to pop into their shop during their soft opening. It was a Sunday full of sunshine and I did my best to capture their pizza on video. Look forward to more coverage of Driftwood Oven as they figure out this whole permanent pizza thing. Maybe we'll even see some of their delicious and elusive square pizza slices...

 

 This is Driftwood Oven's delicious Archer pizza. A bit bigger and sturdier than their mobile version.

This is Driftwood Oven's delicious Archer pizza. A bit bigger and sturdier than their mobile version.

Happy National Pizza Day, Please Hug a Pizza

Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment
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Pizza is humankind’s bestfriend. While we have created so many great industries, technologies and flavors, pizza is the one creation that loves us back.  

Think about eating a pizza. There’s no other experience like it.  

As each bite of pizza globs down your esophagus, strings of cheese latching onto anything it can grab and occasionally clogging the passage, it’s actually saying hello. It’s pizza’s way of saying, “Thanks for making us one and I promise that my sauce, oil, crust and whole being will help make you a better person.”

People and pizza go together like, uh, pizza and beer. Pizza is a simple food that we use as social currency and in return we are all the richer. The more you spend it the more there seems to be! When I’m interested in meeting up with someone we will obviously go and grab some pizza. Now, next time we meet we will either go to another pizza place or spend the whole time talking about how we bonded over pizza.

Pizza begets pizza begets pizza. 

Pizza has evolved alongside us. As we’ve settled across the country pizza has adapted to fit in with the local lifestyle. That’s how we have Detroit Style pizza and New York style. No matter what economic class you find yourself in pizza is one of the more accessible foods. Grab a slice on a street corner for a dollar or drop $25 a pie at a fancy brick oven place with a fancy awning outside their building.  

Pizza is there for us, waiting in the wings, never judging but always glowing its oily glow.

Happy National Pizza Day. Go hug a pizza and let it hug you back.

Here’s some pizza photos to celebrate.  

 Slice Island’s signature rectangles.  

Slice Island’s signature rectangles.  

 Buffalo Chicken Pizza from Michigan & Trumbull

Buffalo Chicken Pizza from Michigan & Trumbull

 Sausage and pepper pizza from Della Terra

Sausage and pepper pizza from Della Terra

 A lightly olived pizza from Piazza Talarico

A lightly olived pizza from Piazza Talarico

 A Sicilian pizza I made for Christmas! 

A Sicilian pizza I made for Christmas! 

 Tommy T doing his best Professor Pizza impression.  

Tommy T doing his best Professor Pizza impression.  

Villa Reale Pizzeria: if Yinzers Founded Italy

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
 The classic sausage and green peppers pizza. This pizza was perfectly cooked, sturdy, and toppings evenly spread out. 

The classic sausage and green peppers pizza. This pizza was perfectly cooked, sturdy, and toppings evenly spread out. 

I imagine that there's fan fiction out in the world that describes in detail what would happen if a rag-tag crew of Pittsburghers traveled across the Atlantic and settled onto the fine country of Italy. They'd call their vibrant land "Yintaly" and their flag would flutter in Southern Italian Wind boasting colors of black, gold, green, red and white. And their pizzas and pizzerias would be modeled after the fine bar/pizzeria of Villa Reale in downtown Pittsburgh.

Villa Reale is a hidden ball of mozzarella in downtown Pittsburgh, nestled next to Weiner World on Smithfield Street, it's an unassuming pizza parlor. When you first enter you notice how unbelievably long this building it. There's a bar in front of the ovens that extend as far as Italy until it opens up into a dining room. I would not be surprised if the blueprints show that this building is modeled off of Italy's boot-shape.

Me and my pizza crew sat in the dining room, but I'm interested in going back for the bar experience. I have a hunch that that's the "right" way to enjoy Villa Reale because you can sip beer and get a front-row seat for the pizza making. That's a tough combo to find in Pittsburgh, but a huge plus for making the trip to Villa Reale.

 This half plain, half capicolla was a bit of a mess. Cheese flooded the center and it was unruly. I think it was because this was an XL, a troublesome size. 

This half plain, half capicolla was a bit of a mess. Cheese flooded the center and it was unruly. I think it was because this was an XL, a troublesome size. 

My pizza crew had two pizzas: a sausage and green pepper and a half-plain half-capicolla. These pizzas may have been made on opposite sides of the world by random strangers. The plain/capicolla had enough cheese for four pizzas while the sausage/green peppers was slice after slice of perfection. How do they do it? How do they churn out such different pizzas?

It sounds like a bad thing, but to me it's comfort. With the boom of artisan pizzerias, it's somewhat refreshing to be served a gloopy moat of cheese and a crisp, crunchy medley of sausage and peppers. It adds an extra layer of mystique and yes, of course we ate all but one slice.

Villa Reale's pizza is the kind of pizza that has a crust that is so volatile that some parts may shatter in your mouth and others are soft and chewy. It's the phenomenon that happens when air pockets form in the crust leaving behind bites that explode like landmines. The slight imperfections of this pizza is what makes it so classic and Pittsburgh-esque.  

I'd put Villa Reale up there with one of my lifetime favorites, Mama Lucia's. I love the mix of Italian heritage and Pittsburgh and they created an odd mish-mash of an environment that you can only find in Downtown Pittsburgh.

 Here is an unfortunate slice of plain pizza that looks like Laura Palmer wrapped up in plastic on the side of a river.

Here is an unfortunate slice of plain pizza that looks like Laura Palmer wrapped up in plastic on the side of a river.

Next time I go to work on my Pittsburgh x Italy crossover fan fiction, I'll do it at the Villa Rae bar. The perfect environment to chat with surly waiters and eat the finest food Italy has to offer. This is pizza that pairs well with a cold Miller High Life or whatever light beer of your choosing.

As a bonus, try to find the photo of a (younger?) Mona Lisa in front of a painting of the Mona Lisa. This really is the icing on the tiramisu. 

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Driftwood Oven Looks to Community to Raise Some Dough

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment

Welp, the Driftwood Oven boys are at it again. Towards the end of November they announced that they were going to focus their Winter energy on making Matteo's old house their home and open a shop on Butler St. After years of traveling around the city, battling for their lives in multiple pizza dojos, and dealing with the elements, Neil and Justin thought they deserved a solid roof over their heads.

After all, they ventured to the corners of the city to serve us pizza, it's about time we travel their way. 

Driftwood Oven is opening up in the old Matteo's spot on Butler Street. I'm not sure what happened to Matteo's, but I'm confident a somewhat casual pizza shop will do wonders in the Lawrenceville area. But, because they're upgrading from a tent to a sturdy structure with an actual roof they need a bit of help with the extra expenses. So they launched a Kickstarter to raise the extra money

I'm typically a bit skeptical of Kickstarters because creators tend to get a too grandiose with their promises. Typically resulting in failed goals or setting impossible expectations. The steady rolling Driftwood Oven crew has hit a sweet spot with their rewards and have a solid track record of quality to back up their promises. 

The rewards are far from crazy and give you an opportunity to pre-buy pizzas at bulk discounts. For $100 you get an invite to their Kickstarter Party which is already in the running for the 2018 Pizza Party of the year.

Driftwood Oven is a success and pizza shop like no other. They are hard workers who built a pizza empire from scratch. As of this writing the Kickstarter is about eight hours old and has already raised over $10,000. Each of those dollars represents a delicious archer they served in the dark winter nights outside Staghorn Cafe in Greenfield and the long days of prepping dough for those sweltering days outside of Grist House. 

Why Driftwood Oven Going to Kickstarter is Great for the Community

 A couple of classic pies from Driftwood Oven

A couple of classic pies from Driftwood Oven

I am a firm believer that everyone's favorite pizza place is whatever they were raised on. Luciano's and Monte Cello's hold a special place in my heart even though their modern forms may not be the greatest version of their pie. Driftwood Oven having a permanent home will give family's another great option for Friday pizzas and I bet you that place will host someone's birthday each weekend. Maybe so much that they'll create a Driftwood Oven Birthday Song?

More importantly, Butler Street is peppered with businesses that are out of touch with the neighborhood. It's the unfortunate side effect of the population boom and investors trying to capitalize on a trend. Participating in the Driftwood Oven Kickstarter gives residence a way to say "I made this happen" and "This is the kind of business I want in my backyard."

Can you even believe that Butler St is anchored on one end by Driftwood oven and on the other Slice Island? Pittsburgh has certainly become the secret pizza capitol of the North East. 

One final thing - their mobile pizza unit isn't going anywhere as they said they'll roll it out of the shop when things get a bit warmer. Stay tuned for more Driftwood Oven pizza updates.