Pizza Walk With Me

Let's get hyped up over some pizza.

Dispatch from Pizza Expo 2017: Day One

Dan TallaricoComment
The all-star Caliente pizza crew

The all-star Caliente pizza crew

Pizza Expo is an astounding event that happens every year in Las Vegas. Last year I sent my associate editor, Tom Tallarico, to the show to cover the pizza news. Tom loves pizza so much he always capitalizes the word. You can read his Pizza Expo Coverage from last year here. With a year under his belt, as well as at least 100 more pizza slices, Tom is ready to tackle the 2017 Pizza Expo.These are his unedited reports.

Pizza Expo 2017-Day 1

Day One at the Pizza Expo usually involves Registration completion of participants & completion of the Exhibit set-up. It also includes informative Workshops for Pizza Shop operators for running a successful business & the start of seminars. Before the sessions began, my Expo started where last year’s ended as I ran into the group from Caliente’s. Last year at this time I ran into owner Nick Bogacz on the last day. He informed me that his chef, Eric Von Hansen had won best Pan Pizza in the International Pizza Challenge & brought two other staff members This year, Nick has brought along a total of 5 staff members.

Experience suggests that a big part in running a successful Pizza Business is assembling a good team which is not easy. Nick has been able to do just that. Keys are treating the staff well, develop loyalties & finding good “kids” who want to work & learn. He brings them to events like this. His staff is entered in the World Pizza Games; dough stretching & box folding & now 2 entrants in the International Pizza Challenge.

Eric is competing in the Non-Traditional Division. In additional, one of Caliente’s younger staff members, Matt Hickey, is entering his 1st competition in the Pan Division. Matt has been with Caliente’s for 2 years. However, he has been reading Pizza Today for many years, has always wanted to get to the Expo & now is ready for competition. He has prepared well, working at a number of shops in the area before getting to Caliente’s where he is now GM at the newest location in Mt. Lebanon. Good luck to both Eric & Matt. Caught a glimpse of their Pizza babies. Both look tasty with a bit of a twist; quite Innovative. Incidentally, Caliente’s now has 3 locations & hopes to open a 4th by late summer.

pizza expo keynote

Speaking of Innovation, that was the topic of the opening seminar. Innovation Keeps Me Growing speaker was Doug Ferriman, an owner in the Boston area with the Crazy Dough brand & now launching a 2nd business, Oath Craft Business involving fresh ingredient pies with wife, Melissa. Doug’s philosophy is being positive, have faith in yourself & living in the Unknown. The Unknown is where Innoovation comes from. Success generally doesn’t come quickly or easily & it took Doug about 7 years to achieve the success he now enjoys. Key Points or Elevations as he calls them include:

  • Having a clear & open mind; let the bad stuff go; keep your energy positive

  • Humility & Visualization

  • Conquering Fears

  • Determination

  • Power of Perspective

  • Will to Win

  • The Summit itself

 

Norman Vincent Peale couldn’t have put it better. Of course, Doug’s success involved becoming an International Pizza Challenge Champion on 2 occasions.'

One win involves quite an Innovative way of prepping dough. It involved grilling the dough, searing the dough in Olive Oil & then baking. Sounds tasty.'

Melissa & Doug Ferriman, Pizza Visionaries

Melissa & Doug Ferriman, Pizza Visionaries

A 2nd seminar involved Dough Fermentation moderated by Peter Reinhart. Topics include various fermentation processes & the importance of time & temperature for consistency. Key point was longer fermentation leads to better flavor & texture for your crust.

 

Lastly, attended a seminar conducted by Tony G. involving Specialty Cheeses & how to apply them. Once again, this session demonstrates the evolution & innovation of Pizza making. Subject matter ranged from traditional cheeses in their various forms to “finishing” cheeses of the softer, creamier variety. Makes one anxious to get back home to try something new.

That completed Day One. Informative sessions along with meeting new & old friends.

Tomorrow the Exhibits open & the World Games begin.

Caliente Wins Best Traditional Pizza in Northeast Regional Championship at the Pizza Expo

Dan TallaricoComment
Nick Fink wins first in Northeast Region Tradtional Pizza at the 2017 Pizza Expo

Nick Fink wins first in Northeast Region Tradtional Pizza at the 2017 Pizza Expo

Caliente can't stop winning in the world of pizza. Nick Fink, up and coming Pizza Star at Pittsburgh's Caliente, has won first place for the Traditional Pizza Division in the Northeast Region. His award winnning pizza was a Sausage & Pepper medley. Peppers were Charcoal/Hickory Grilled.

Key was roasted peppers hickory blend. Sausage was blend of Hot/Sweet & Calabrian.

Nick Is 21 and has been with Caliente's for 3 years. Started at Captain'sTable at 15. 

 

IMG_1595.JPG

Dispatch from Pizza Expo 2017: The Prequel

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment
PizzaExpoBadge

Pizza Expo is an astounding event that happens every year in Las Vegas. Last year I sent my associate editor, Tom Tallarico, to the show to cover the pizza news. Tom loves pizza so much he always capitalizes the word. You can read his Pizza Expo Coverage from last year here. With a year under his belt, as well as at least 100 more pizza slices, Tom is ready to tackle the 2017 Pizza Expo.These are his unedited reports.

PIZZA EXPO 2017

Well back at the EXPO again. Been looking forward to getting back since LAST March. And as time passes, Pizza becomes more popular (if that is possible) and takes on more & interesting iterations, i.e. Wood fired, 90 seconds in & out of the oven (as authentic as it gets), creative sauces & toppings & more shops than ever. Over the past year, my Pizza adventures have included:

Periodical Pizza fests around the city with prominent participants including Driftwood oven, Caliente, Graziano’s, Pizza Taglio among others.

Speaking of Driftwood Oven, have enjoyed their fare at various brewerys around town. Also, happy to see press release touting Neil being recognized with a Rust Belt Rising Chef award. Congratulations to him.

 

Eric Von Hanson with his award winning Pan Pizza from Caliente

Eric Von Hanson with his award winning Pan Pizza from Caliente

Speaking of award winners, last year’s Pizza Expo Champion for Pan Pizza, Eric Von Hanson had the Pan Pizza put on the menu some months ago. But the big surprise is they have put the actual Pan winner, the Quack Attack, on the menu as well. Have to get one at least once a month.

Paulie Gee's Logan Square

Always enjoy the Brunch at Spirit Lounge featuring their wonderful pizza product including watching a Steeler playoff game there.

Two class places in Chicago; Bleuna & Paulie Gee’s out of NYC. Went to see Tony Scardino hard at work. He is an associate of Tony G. who I met last year at the Expo.

Up and coming pizza maker, Anthony Scardino with Pizza Walk With Me associate editor, Tom Tallarico

Up and coming pizza maker, Anthony Scardino with Pizza Walk With Me associate editor, Tom Tallarico

Always enjoy mainstays Fazio’s in Lawrenceville & Casa del Sol in Aspinwall.

Many others that I have missed as well. But haven’t been to Spak Bros. yet which I need to get to. It’s on my list.

Vytauras of Citizen Pie waving hello!,

Vytauras of Citizen Pie waving hello!,

Of course, Pittsburgh Pizza fest. I missed it as I was in Ohio. However, on my way home per a colleagues recommendation, I stopped at a place in Cleveland called Citizens Pie. Outstanding Pie!!! Some of the freshest ingredients/topping ever. The Soppressata was cut thick & exceptional. Turns out, Pizza maker/owner Vytauras will be at the Expo this week for the 1st time. One of his guys will be competing in the Box folding contest trying to break the World record.

A slice of pizza from Citizen Pie in Cleveland, Ohio

A slice of pizza from Citizen Pie in Cleveland, Ohio

All that said, now looking forward to a Fun Fun week. Actually the weekend in Vegas was quite fun already. 

Graziano's Slice Investigation: Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
Here is a simple, sloppy slice of Graziano's buffalo chicken pizza.

Here is a simple, sloppy slice of Graziano's buffalo chicken pizza.

I admire Graziano's candor and excitement for their own pizza. I routinely visit their store for a six-pack, and occasionally I'll get a slice to take home with me. No use grabbing some beers without a pizza companion. 

There's always someone spilling their drama in the front of the shop, but behind the counter you'll find the same reliable staff of workers who have seen it all and dealt with more griping and antics than most people see in their lifetime. 

No one ever recommends Graziano's, and it rarely makes any "best of" list, yet their store is home to a couple of trophies. They participated in a few pizza competitions last summer and won consecutive "People's Choice Awards" for best pizza. The pizza in question: their buffalo chicken pizza.

I popped into Graziano's for a slice and one of the workers asked me if I wanted a slice of a fresh buffalo chicken pizza. I waffled, like a dope, then said yes. Most buffalo chicken pizza I've had starts with a crust, a gallon of ranch, french fries, fried chicken and a drizzle of hot sauce. 

This flipped the script on buffalo chicken pizza. Instead of ranch, their pizza is slathered in hot sauce. They admitted they "went a bit overboard." I'd beg to differ - if you're going to make a pizza that's 90% hot sauce, lean into it. Own the fact that every buffalo chicken pizza carries with it a tub of hot sauce. That's what buffalo chicken pizza lovers want.

On top of the buffalo sauce was a hunk of cheese and grilled chicken, not fried. I was shocked, but with the crunch of the crust you don't miss the fried chicken. In fact, it helps all the flavors blend in a bit better.

If you're in the market for a somewhat sloppy, delicious and fun pizza, try the Buffalo Chicken Pizza from Graziano's. It's worth the adventure at least once. 

Graziano's Pizza

Slice on Broadway, a Local Pizza Darling - #PGHPizzaWeek

Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment

Find me a single person that dislikes Slice on Broadway. I dare you. Watch the video above and try and find a severe flaw.

It's impossible. Helmed by Rico Lunardi, Slice on Broadway is a pizza shop that is slowly taking over Pittsburgh pizza. His aggressive and intelligent expansion has earned him a spot in PNC Park, replacing the bland Diamond Pizza shop. A win for all parties involved.

Rico's mission is to build out consistently delicious pizza and, basically, ensure that everyone in Pittsburgh has access to amazing pizza. He shows no signs of slowing down which is a boon for everyone in the area. 

I'm a big fan of what Rico has accomplished, heck the guy even got the mayor to declare April 14th as the official Slice on Broadway day in the city! If you haven't eaten a slice of Slice on Broadway, do yourself a favor and go to one of his locations this week.

What I Order

  • Rico stocks his shops with rare meats for a pizza shop: I always get a pie with soppressata. 
  • Pepperoni rolls aren a good side option!

Slice on Broadway Ordering Info

Slice on Broadway in the News

Driftwood Oven Experiments With Square Slices - #PGHPIZZAWEEK

Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment
Driftwood Oven experiments with square slices

Driftwood Oven experiments with square slices

I don't know what kind of witchcraft happens under Driftwood Oven's pizza tent. Over the cold season, Neil and Justin set up their mobile home and zip themselves inside their pizza den. If you're at Grist House, Dancing Gnome or any other location they call home, to order the pizza you unzip their tent and enter the pizza cave.

The Driftwood Oven pizza cave is a warm safe place. Some folks linger inside with their beer and watch Neil expertly work the oven. Justin is a one-man-show ready to entertain anyone that enters. The pizza cave draws people in, like travelers gathering next to a warm hearth to rest their weary legs and tell tales of pizza.

On my most recent visit into the Driftwood Oven pizza cave, Neil had a tray of square slices. Driftwood Oven has been teasing square slices for a long time. In fact, I had sampled some square slices from Driftwood Oven months ago. The ones Neil are selling today is an evolution of that product. I asked him if this means he finally mastered the formula. 

"It's never perfect. You know that. It's a constant work in progress," was Neil's response. I suppose an artist is never truly satisfied. 

But square slices have a nostalgia to them. My uncle was so excited to see the slices on the menu that he ordered six. "Growing up in Beaver, it's all we ate. For your birthday they set down a platter of square slices," said my uncle, Don Erb, about his history with square slices.

Here Don uses the "blow on hot pizza" technique to cool it down a few degrees.

Here Don uses the "blow on hot pizza" technique to cool it down a few degrees.

There is a rustic feeling to the square slices. It recalls memories of grandma pie: dough mashed into a square tray and plopped into the oven. It requires much less finesse than getting a round pie. 

Driftwood Oven's square slices were delicious. The slices were solid, sturdy, and provided a hearty crunch. In past iterations the inside has been much softer, so maybe they're trying to strike that crunch-to-soft-balance. 

still, it was beautiful and it was simple. I'm excited to eat tray after tray of their square pie in the coming months.

What I Order

  • A margherita and something zany on the menu.
  • Gotta grab a square slice as an appetizer.
  • Get a pizza per person.

How to Hunt Down Driftwood Oven

Other Driftwood Oven News

 

Spak Brothers Pizza - #PGHPizzaWeek

Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment
Spak Brothers mural is a beacon in Garfield.

Spak Brothers mural is a beacon in Garfield.

 

Meet Spak Brothers. Spak Brothers sits in the heart of Garfield. Spak Brothers personifies modern Pittsburgh pizza, hence why they’re being highlighted during PGH Pizza Week here at Pizza Walk With Me.

 

Spak carries a wide variety of pizza, hoagies and appetizers that combine classic recipes with modern sensibilities. Their meats and cheeses are carefully sourced. You’ll never find a piece of pepperoni that’s overly greasy and their capicola is thick and just spicy enough.  On top of that, they’re home to a bastion of veggie and vegan food. For years, Spak was the place for vegetarians and vegans to get their fix of wings and hoagies. The Seitan cheesesteak is eerily authentic to the real thing.

 

Spak Brothers is a simple shop. They have one person answering phones and helping the line, of which there seems to always be one. They know people are willing to wait for a pizza or hoagie and go to great lengths to entertain customers throughout the buying journey. In the store you can look at local artist or the many flyers for upcoming shows. Admire the coozies and Spak lighters for purchase, or play a game of pinball. Spak is also one of the places I don’t mind being on hold. The owner has recorded a number of classic songs with new lyrics focused on pizza. Such as Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” and The Smith’s “Panic.”

Spak hosts a Pizza Eating Competition during the Pittsburgh PGH Festival. It gets pretty nasty.

Spak hosts a Pizza Eating Competition during the Pittsburgh PGH Festival. It gets pretty nasty.

As Pittsburgh pizza continues to grow, Spak will forever be the community pizza place. It’s a pizza glue that holds garfield together and is truly a pizza place of the people.

What I Order

  • 1 Large Pizza, half capicola, half hot peppers.

  • A whole hoagie, either BBQ Chicken with Grilled Chicken or the Italian Hoagie.

  • A garden salad with carrot ginger dressing.

Spak Bros Ordering Info:

Location: 5107 Penn Avenue
Phone Number: 412-362-SPAK (7725)
Website: SpakBrothers.com

Other Spak News

Celebrate Every Week Like it's #pghpizzaweek with Pizza Walk With Me

Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment
pghpizzaweek

Hi there, I’m Dan, local Pittsburgh pizza journalist. Next week the City Paper has declared that it will be “#pghpizzaweek” where they will be highlighting pizzas from, at the time of publishing, 11 pizzerias. This is a city that has one of the highest amount of pizzerias per capita. This is a city where each neighborhood has a signature pizza and blocks are dense with pizza shops. 11 doesn't seem like enough, so I'm going to lend a hand.

In the past couple of years, Pittsburgh has experienced a pizza renissance. There’s a healthy mix of wonderfully greasy pies, mobile pizza heroes and neopilitan pizza that seem to import flavor from Italy.

Pizza has that effect on people. It’s a powerful food that can calm your nerves, put you at easy and transport you into a delicious pizza trance.

Over the next couple days I’ll be highlighting a number of local pizzerias as part of #pghpizzaweek. Pittsburgh is a pizza town as much as NYC, I truly believe that. We have some of the best pizza in the world here and it’s my job to highlight that.

So, over the next week you’ll see pictures, videos and essays on the following pizzerias:

I've covered many of these places in the past, and it's always fun to look back on great pizza from great pizza places. #pghpizzaweek may be one of the best weeks yet! Pizza ya later.

 

When a Pizza Journalist Meets a Pizza Oven

Dan TallaricoComment
pizza journalist dan

Hi, this is me, pizza journalist Dan Tallarico. And you may be wondering how I got here. Well, it involves 8 years of work and relationship building until I was able to marry into a family that had a pizza oven in their backyard. This is me with a pizza that stuck to the peel and had to be destroyed. Oh the humanity. Also, when you're a pizza journalist you don't have to worry about how wrinkled your shirts are.

I like to blame the pizza sticking on the whole olives I tossed onto the dough. I made other pizzas that turned out perfectly, those did not have olives. Let's focus on those.

 

This is a pizza inside a brick oven getting all charred up.

This is a pizza inside a brick oven getting all charred up.

Here's the first pizza I made. No sticking, the dough is stretched perfectly and its crust is forming perfectly. You definitely want a crust that looks like a coiled snake that swallowed a couple of balls of mozzarella. Those bumps mean you'll be biting into a tasty, textured pizza. 

This pizza oven is incredibly small, so you have fire in one corner and nothing on the other. It's a hot oven so someone needs to stand vigil, rotating the pizza every 30 seconds or so. If you did everything right, you'll end up with something like this:

 

The finished product - a handmade pizza from scratch. 

The finished product - a handmade pizza from scratch. 

Here's the final product. A chewy dough, spots of brown, slightly brazed basil and melted mozzarella. 

There's nothing that beats a pizza you make from scratch. The dough and oven were both provided by my father-in-law, Dan Cardone. He spent some time in Italy working with legit pizzaiolos to master the craft. He even has a certificate declaring his pizza skills!

Look at that pizza - it truly doesn't get better than that.

Pittsburgh Pizza Margherita

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

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

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

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


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

Slice Highlight: Slice on Broadway & Their Delicious Tomato Pie

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
Slice on Broadway Tomato Pie

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

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

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

Slice on Broadway Tomato Pie Closeup

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

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

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

Tomato Pie Pizza in Box

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

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

Underside of Tomato Pie Pizza

Slicing it Up With Dan - VIA 313 Detroit Style Pizza

Pizza Review, Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

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

A couple of pizzas ready for action.

A couple of pizzas ready for action.

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

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

VIA 313 The Detroiter

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

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

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

A bare, innocent slice of Fiori's pizza.

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

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

Fiori's from 2013. Looks undercooked and sad.

Fiori's from 2013. Looks undercooked and sad.

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

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

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

Fiori's Pizza Brookline Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get fixed up, get Fiori's. 

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

Pizza Video, Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

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

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

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

Slice ya later!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Bury Me with My Pizza Cutter

Pizza CreationsDan Tallarico1 Comment
CustomPizzaCutter

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

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

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

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

PizzaCutter And Pizza

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

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

PizzaWithaPizzaCutterPal

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

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

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

 

 

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

Pizza ReviewDan Tallarico1 Comment
Cappello's Gluten Fre Pizza Review

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Tallarico, Pizza Walk With Me Associate Journalist.

Final Day of Pizza Expo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Day Pizza Expo Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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