Pizza Walk With Me

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Pizza Walk Pittsburgh: A Pizza Book About the Best New Pizza in Pittsburgh

Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment

Hi folks! Sorry for the radio silence, but I’ve been working on an important project. Truth be told, after chronicling the Pittsburgh pizza scene for years, I wanted something more. I wanted something more permanent that could live on beyond the internet and possibly even me.

My time interviewing and writing about the Pittsburgh pizza scene has been eye opening. Talking to the shop owners and documenting new openings, closings and events brought me closer to Pittsburgh in a way that I never expected. It made this whole city feel like a town. I could go for a jog and see people that have made my pizza or someone I recognize from a (maybe annoying) interview inside a shop.

I was driven by bringing the freshest news and perspective to the city, specifically around pizza. It’s why I sent my dad out to Pizza Expo to cover the large continent of Pittsburgh Pizza participants. It’s why I took a PTO day from my job to visit Pizza Cono prior to them opening in Squirrel Hill. Covering new, exciting pizza developments was thrilling.

This book is the pinnacle of that. It covers thirteen of the newest spots, including openings, photos and insights that I’ve gathers throughout the years. The book is done, I simply need to know how many copies I have to print.

Early on in my pizza writing days I was showing this website to a local entrepreneur. After scrolling through my site and reading a few articles they only had one question for me: why don’t you have any ads on your website? I truly don’t believe ads are the right way to make money on the internet. If you can produce something of value, and help people understand that value, they will surely pay for it when the time comes.

This Kickstarter is a testament to that idea. I have no idea if I’ll be successful, but after doing this for years I figured this would be a good chance to see what kind of goodwill I’ve collected.

About the Pittsburgh Pizza Book

The book itself will be 6 x 9. It will be paperback, with a slightly glossy cover. Not too glossy. The interior pages will be #80 paper and will have a matte sheen. It’ll be fun to flip through. There are over 20,000 words that cover 13 pizza shops. It’s possible I’ll add more before the book is truly done. Some of the shops covered are:

  • Pizza Cono

  • Driftwood Oven

  • Mercurio’s

  • Caliente’s

  • Spak Brothers.

  • Rockaway Pizza

  • Badamo’s

  • Spirit

  • Slice On Broadway

  • Pizza Taglio

  • and more!

You can see a sample of the book here. This covers the intro as well as a bit on Driftwood oven.

If you’re interested in backing the Kickstarter you can visit the Pizza Walk Pittsburgh Kickstarter here.

Thanks for your support over all these years and here’s to a hundred more years of pizza!

Rockaway Pizzeria Offers Authentic New York Style Pizza Without Compromise

Pizza Review, Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment
Rockaway Pizzeria in White Oak PA

The Road to White Lodge of Rockaway Pizzeria

Driving to Rockaway Pizza in White Oak, PA, there’s not much. From Pittsburgh you leave the city and pass town after town that is slightly more economically depressed. You pass up a few strip malls that are hanging in there, dilapidated buildings, and strips of absolutely nothing. It’s only a 30 minute drive from the city, but whatever renaissance Pittsburgh is going through has yet to hit the surrounding areas. 

Eventually, you’ll arrive at Rockaway pizza. Which, if you didn’t know it was open you’d think it was another broken down building waiting to be bulldozed. Somehow, the Rockaway sign is old and faded despite being in business for only two years.

But pizza making isn’t about fancy architecture, building an ostentatious building signaling how great your pie is, or decadent signage. It’s about pizza. A temple built without frivolity. And Josh Sickels, an ex-drummer turned Pizza Shop Owner, focuses his energy on what’s important. Making great pizza.

After touring around New York City as a drummer in The Takeover UK and 1,2,3 (both Pittsburgh bands), Josh absorbed the regions pizza. Mostly from Queens. Those years of research and the attention to devouring a number of pies and reverse engineering their structure have paid off. Josh picked up on what makes N.Y. City pizza better (it’s not just the water) and has taken a deep dive into the process and fundamentals of recreating that pizza outside of Pittsburgh. He likes a wet dough, he uses a unique blend of cheese (Rockaway might be the only pizza place in Western PA that doesn’t use provolone in their blend) and, what he seems to be most proud of, are the 20 inch wire cloth screens he bakes certain topping-heavy pizza on. 

Josh called around and found a guy in Queens who makes these screens for the classic pizza places in Queens. Again, he might be the only person in Western PA with access to these thick wire cloth screens.

“The Queens style of New York pizza has more cheese on it, they figured out that the bottom would cook before the tops were done because there’s so much cheese,” Josh says. “The traditional pizza screen sucks because it makes the undercrust soggy. So they started using these ‘wire cloth’ screens.”


These screens are thicker, raise the pizza a bit above the surface of the oven so steam can escape and slow down the cooking of the undercrust so the top of the pizza also bakes through. Both top and bottom come out perfectly baked and it reduces that soggy-swamp that sometimes forms at the center of larger pizzas. 

It’s a small tweak, but makes a huge difference on the quality of the pie. And Josh’s process is full of these small tweaks that optimize the flavor and quality of the pizza. Tweaks that on their own don’t seem worth doing, but build up throughout the process to make a large impact.

He even cuts the pizza on an elevated wood cutting board after they come out of the oven so the cold steel countertop doesn’t steam up and tarnish the pizza.

This attention to detail and uncompromising vision is admirable, but he is at times playing for an audience that doesn’t quite understand the magic.

The most beautiful pizza from Rockaway. It covers the bases - from plain to the outrageous.

The most beautiful pizza from Rockaway. It covers the bases - from plain to the outrageous.

Waiting for the Ranch Dressing Horsemen 

Josh’s elevated taste results in delicious pizza with ingredients and flavors that are (maybe) ahead of the curve and foreign to the Western Pennsylvania way of pizza. His menu is vast covering a variety of toppings, meats and sauces. But what’s left off the menu is the sacred buffalo chicken pizza. There’s no deep fryer and the sides are practical spinoffs of what’s you’d expect - hoagies and garlic knots.

During my short time at Rockaway, ranch dressing was the subject of a number of conversations. A customer early on Saturday grabbed their pizza and, after paying, asked for a cup of ranch dressing. Josh froze. He should be used to this by now, but still he struggles with this request. He says “sure” and goes to the back to grab a small container of ranch. Hardly enough for more than one or two slices. She should be happy she gets that amount.

“Why am I aging my mozzarella when you’re just going to cover it in ranch?” Josh says after she leaves. He plans to hang a large “no ranch” sign behind the counter someday soon. 

A customer hears him explain this to me and he shouts from his booth, “Hey! I agree with you - no one should be putting ranch dressing on this pizza. It’s great the way it is.”

This might sound obnoxious and snobby, but this is someone with an uncompromising view of their pizza. He spent most of his life as a musician creating his own music. Owning a restaurant is an extension of that artistic vision. None of the pizzas on the menus are there by accident, it’s all very purposeful and thoughtful. Someone asking for ranch is akin to someone at a show yelling from the crowd that maybe he should consider playing the drums just a bit slower, maybe take it easy on the kick drum.

You don’t ask a musician to change their lyrics to fit your life. Their lyrics either resonate with you or you move on. 

Josh Sickels has some iconic people hung above his pizza making station.

Josh Sickels has some iconic people hung above his pizza making station.

When This Kind of Fire Starts, It’s Very Hard to Put Out

Rockaway Pizza is a gateway to New York City pizza. I don’t think Josh would categorize himself as a pizza missionary, but he doing his best to spread the pizza gospel. In the 22 months he’s been open he’s cultivated a following of loyal pizza fans.

As Josh puts it:

No one else in the city is really doing this style except for Slice on Broadway and Badamo’s. I figured that yes, I use good shit, yes I have a deep knowledge of pizza. I make this style of pizza as a testament that New York style pizza is the best pizza there is. 

Lots of people haven’t been exposed to that. This is an economicly depressed area. They haven’t been to New York to try the pizza, but they can get a taste of that here.

Josh’s uncompromising vision bridges the gap between dirty unceremonious yinzer pizza shop with the technically superior style of New York pizza. He wants to expose as many people as possible to what he thinks is the best pizza.

And so far, it seems to be working. 

While I was in the shop there was an entire family who drove to Rockaway Pizzeria from Brownsville, about 45 minutes away. According Jason House Rockaway enthusiast, “This is the closest thing you can get to New York pizza around here. You can tell he loves what he’s doing, but everything is top of the line.” Jason had a pizza with pepperoni, peppers and sweet sausage. His girls love the white pizza.

Despite the low-key nature of Rockaway Pizzeria, enthusiasts seek out Rockaway like the religiously inclined travel to see those miraculous weeping statures of the Virgin Mary. In some ways, there’s a soul-stirring reaction to eating at Rockaway the first time.

Biting into Rockaway pizza compels you to tell friends, family, coworkers and complete strangers about it. Since my visit I’ve showed off the photo of my pizza to dozens of people. I tried to tell them how each bite was somehow better than the last, that the flavors kept building and that the whole pizza was perfectly cooked. I was crazed with pizza. Days later I’m still scrolling back through my photos and thinking about when I can get back down to the shop.

Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the environment and the high quality pizza. Maybe it’s the 40 minute drive I took to get to this place, but Rockaway Pizza feels somewhat miraculous. It seems like this pizza shouldn’t exist, but the forces of nature have conspired to bring this perfect pizza to White Oak. 

The Italian Italian Hoagie at Rockaway Pizza. A textbook hoagie with elevated meats.

The Italian Italian Hoagie at Rockaway Pizza. A textbook hoagie with elevated meats.

What to Order at Rockaway Pizzeria

Everything is good here so please explore the menu at your leisure.

While I was there I had a sausage slice, pepperoni, plain and prosciutto with arugula. Each of the slices were top-notch. There is a vodka pizza on the menu—while I didn’t have a chance to try a bite of that I did get a sample of the homemade sauce. Good lord it was rich and delicious. It’s certainly at the top of my list when I venture back.

While Rockaway isn’t known for its hoagies, the Italian hoagie was textbook. Great meats, drizzle of sauce, and the perfect partner in crime to the pizza.

There’s nothing of waste on the menu. Josh made plenty of Frankenstein’s while I was there (a sampler pizza, very clever idea) and I’m dying to try the Sicilian. While they use the same dough as their traditional, they do “something special” to it to make it different. Stay tuned for whatever that means.

Book Your Mission Trip to Rockaway

If you’re a pizza fan you need to start planning your trip to Rockaway. It’s a small spot, so get their early. Bring some friends, make a day of it and get ready to reflect on some high quality pizza. You can find more information about Rockaway Pizzeria at their website.

Driftwood Oven Washes Up as a Top 50 Nominee for America's Best New Restaurant

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment
Bon Appetite Driftwood Oven top 50

Is it appropriate to say a hot new restaurant has "washed up" onto a list of the 50 best new restaurants in the United States of America? Perhaps not. Washing up implies that nature itself has conspired to bring an unconscious participants to the shore of something great. After writing that I realize Driftwood Oven has done the exact opposite of washing up. Driftwood Oven doesn't float aimlessly through the waters, they have charted a course to deliver quality ingredients and this is their just reward.

As they pick up speed and refine their restaurant, the country has taken notice. Most recently, Bon Appétit has listed them as one of 50 nominees for the The Hot 10, a listing of the 10 hottest new restautants according to them. 

Making a list of the 50 best restaurants is insane. Driftwood Oven is competing with every new restaurant in the United States. Thousands of independent restaurants open each year. To get noticed, a restaurant has to cut through the cacophony of noise to rise above the rest with nothing but the best, most interesting food. 

I reached out to Neil Blazin, co-founder of Driftwood Oven, to hear his thoughts on making this list. He said, "It feels wild to be considered in a publication such as Bon Appétit. Never crossed my mind." 

And, again, that's what's so interesting about Driftwood Oven making this list. They are busy opening a restaurant, running a Kickstarter, and figuring out logistics that they've barely had time to market themselves. Yet, here they are on this list. 

On top of all that, they have to stick out against a sea of pizza, a food so ubiquitous that if you're not doing something amazing you may as well not even exist. Maybe it was Bon Appétite that washed up on the shore of Driftwood Oven...

Making this list is a testament to understanding the importance of sourcing food and going the extra mile to create something delicious. If this was another standard pizza place there's no way they'd be on this list. But, with their consistency and dedication to the craft I wouldn't be shocked if they made it on the Hot 10.

Pittsburgh's Other Top 50 Restaurant - Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette

If I had a sandwich blog (probably named What's "Capicola-ing With You") I'd write endlessly about Bitter Ends Garden in Bloomfield. It is so odd to me that Pittsburgh lacks high quality sandwich shops, but Bitter Ends fills that hole and then some. Everything from the pie to the bread is made fresh. It's one of those places where you can't eat anything bad and I'm so glad they're on this list.

Tallarico Toast: A Pizza and Avocado Toast Mashup from Michigan & Trumbull

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
A whole tray of the fabled, hard to find, Tallarico Toast by Michigan & Trumbull

A whole tray of the fabled, hard to find, Tallarico Toast by Michigan & Trumbull

When it comes to food I often find myself falling into specific patterns. Pizza, for example, is a dish that makes up a healthy percentage of my intake. But that's more of an evening meal for me. On the flip side, under the morning sun I've gotten into this great habit of munching on Avocado Toast every morning. 

Avocado Toast and pizza seem like complete opposites but have a lot in common. Obviously, both have.a base of bread, some sort of spread, followed by.a sprinkling of toppings. And even more obvious is that they're amazingly delicious. If pizza is the king of the Friday night family meal then Avocado Toast is the queen of a weekend breakfast. Which means these two foods rule of the entire Kingdom of Food?

So, where is this all going? If you are what you eat and I was suddenly turned into a type of pizza I guess that means I would be turned into what Michigan & Trumbull calls Tallarico Toast. 

Tallarico Toast is equal parts pizza and avocado toast. The base is the same as their Packard Pepperoni or other, more traditional, Detroit style pizzas. A crunchy and soft crust. On top of that is a proprietary avocado spread made from the essence of pure avocados. It's thick and creamy and sticks loyally to the crust. Now this would be enough to be considered avocado toast, but Michigan & Trumbull does not settle or shy away from innovation. 

Michigan and Trumbull's excellent Tallarico Toast

Michigan and Trumbull's excellent Tallarico Toast

Topping the avocado spread are pickled onions, radishes, and watercress greens. After a bit of R&D they swapped out regular olive oil for olive oil infused with a bit of lime. The zest makes this next-level stuff. 

The chef's behind Michigan & Trumbull are true alchemists that absolutely understand the fundamentals of pizza. They're able to bend the rules, experiment, and create hit after hit. The Tallarico Toast is a temporary alien addition to their menu, but it fits into their lineup of pizzas perfectly.

During its one-week stay I'm sure Tallarico Toast broke records —most times the Tallarico name has been uttered in one week, most delicious brunch pizza without an egg cracked in the middle or most avocados used in a pizzeria — but let's hope it makes its return one day to show how versatile and beautiful of a pizza canvas is.

Pizza Journalist Dan Tallarico Eating Tallarico Toast

Pizza Journalist Dan Tallarico Eating Tallarico Toast

Slicing it Up With Dan: Tallarico Toast from Michigan & Trumbull

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

I guess it was bound to happen. After years of writing about pizza and documenting my avocado toast every morning, someone was going to put two and two together. We went to visit Michigan & Trumbull and ate a slice of Tallarico Toast. The result is an authentic, honest report of the pizza.

The pizza combines the fundamentals of Detroit Style Pizza with the decadent toppings of Avocado Toast. While it's a limited time menu item, here's hoping it makes another appearance. 

Making Pizzas with Pittsburgh Pizzaiolo, Dan Cardone

Pizza Essay, Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

When I first started dating my now-wife, Christa, I didn't think pizza would become part of the fabric of our relationship. Soon after, I started this website and she has traveled with me on my pizza journeys across the land and film me eat slices of pizza. Around the same time, her father starting really getting into pizza.

His frequent trips to Italy became more frequent. Soon, he was spending weeks at a time at a Pizzaiolo school in Naples. He would return to the states with in-depth knowledge of Neapolitan pizza. A true pizzaiolo. While he has bounced around pizzerias, most of his baking takes place in his backyard where he had a pizza oven constructed next to his bocci court. Some say it's the Little Italy of the North Hills.

This video is from our most recent trip to the North Hills Little Italy. Watch Dan Cardone craft a Margherita pizza - with a big twist. That's right, we defied the strict rules of Margherita pizza and added tiny san marzano tomatoes. They added a nice burst of flavor and a bit of extra zest to the traditional pie.  

Here are a couple of the other pizzas we made that day, as well as the finished Margherita from the one in the video. 

Margherita Pizza San Marzano Tomatoes

Here's the pizza from the video. It was the first of the day and honestly, I think it could've used some more time in the oven. I like em crispy even though it's technically not "correct." The toppings could've been distributed better, but lots of jostling can happen from the walk on the basement to the backyard pizza oven. 

Margherita pizza with aleche

Now here was a divisive pizza! This one has some of that char I love, but it also has anchovies, or alici. When I served this pizza Dan was very clear not to tell people it had anchovies on it and that instead I should use the Italian word for it, alici. No one was fooled. 

And finally, here's one with a mix of shredded cheese. You know it's shredded because it burns up so quickly while the whole mozzarella stays nice and white. 

Oblong margherita pizza tomatoes shredded mozzarella

Eat Iron Born Pizza, Help Make a Wish

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment

Ever feel like a huge waste of space for eating an entire pizza in one sitting and having nothing but a bloated stomach to show for it? Well, yeah, we've all been there and there's nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence. 

But, if you want your pizza chomping to contribute to a good cause, Iron Born has you covered. Introducing the Make a Wish Pie collaboration at Iron Born pizza at Smallman Galley. The creator of this elaborate pizza Ben Kronman, a recent Fox Chapel graduate. Kronman submitted five different ideas and this Shishito pepper topped pizza was the winning combo. 

It's certainly an intriguing pizza that certainly brings some heat. Visit Iron Born down at the Smallman Galley in the Strip to try this pizza and contribute to a good cause. 

The Quintessential Rust Belt Pizza - Michigan & Trumbull's Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
An aerial view of Michigan & Trumbull's Buffalo Chicken Pizza

An aerial view of Michigan & Trumbull's Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Pittsburgh sits in the center of the famous Rust Belt. It’s the belt buckle that keeps that whole belt together and coexisting as one. Because of the location, Pittsburgh absorbs influences from all along the belt, as well as any passing trends. Yes, Pittsburgh may be behind certain fashion trends and culture, but the city excels in bizararre amalgationa of food. The latest culinary masterpiece is Michigan and Trumbull’s Buffalo Chicken pizza. 

I’ve delivered pizzas at various spots across this great state and I’ll tell you that 90% of the pizzas I delivered in Pittsburgh were some concoction of buffalo chicken. Oddly enough, when disaster struck those numbers would increase. I had the privilege of delivering pizza when Roethlisberger had his infamous motorcycle accident. Citizens were devastated and the only thing that could fill that Roethlisberger shaped hole in their black and gold heart was buffalo chicken pizza. 

I met a lot of sad men in XL #7 jerseys that afternoon.  

Anyways, this is all to say that if you own a pizzeria in Pittsburgh and you don’t have a Buffalo chicken pizza your market cap is 50% what it could be. This pie has woven itself into the Pittsburgh food tapestry and Michigan & Trumbull has taken it to the next level.

A nice side shot of the Buffalo Chicken Pizza

A nice side shot of the Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Meet their Buffalo Chicken Pizza. It takes the best part of Detroit Style Pizza (the caramelized cheese, the thick crust) and adds a hefty dripping of hot sauce and chicken tucked under the cheese. The end result is one of the most delicious, comforting and flavorful pizzas on the market.  

As a bonus they provide their own ranch dressing which is full of zing. You’ll want to grab a cup of this to drizzle onto your own square or to dip leftover crust in.  

Whats special about this pizza is that the structure of the Detroit Pie begs to be encumbered. This buffalo chicken pizza is the perfect stress test for the dough. And it holds up beautifully. Maybe next time it’s available they’ll add some of their zesty waffle fries to this creation.

This Buffalo Chicken Pizza is a limited edition item that shows up on the Michigan and Trumbull menu periodically. Keep an eye on their Instagram for the latest in Detroit Style Pizza in Pittsburgh.  







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
Buffet 3.png
Buffet 4.png


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.

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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

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” 


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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



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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.   

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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.



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 Don't forget to sign up for the mailing list to get hot scoops and hot pizza news delivered right to your inbox!