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Dispatch From Pizza Expo Day 4: Two Geniuses of Pizza Showcase Pizza Excellence

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment
Pizza ala Pala made by pizza genius, Graziano Bertuzzo

Pizza ala Pala made by pizza genius, Graziano Bertuzzo

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. In his final dispatch he spends time soaking in pizza excellence.  Read Day 1 HereRead Day 2 of Pizza Expo Here. Read Day 3 here.

Pizza EXPO 2017-Day 4

Day 4 of the EXPO started off with a special morning treat, and no it wasn’t Sunny Side-up Eggs perfectly cracked on a Pizza. A session titled Two Champions Unite it was a special collaboration of two Pizza Giants; Tony Gemignani & Graziano Bertuzzo from Italy, top Pizza craftsman in Europe. Both have won Pizza titles in the U.S. and Italy. Both have won Pizza acrobatic titles at the start of their careers. That said, opening remarks included comments that the “Hands” define the style. The theme of the demonstration was Pizza alla Pala; or “Pizza on a Board”. Showing how Pizza making has become stylishly sophisticated, both Masters described techniques in dough making & toppings.

Graziano pre-ferments the dough with no yeast. He instead uses fruit soaked water for a natural fermentation. Makes use of Type 1 flour with an 18 hour rest which enhances the aroma. Dough is restarted with ground rice, fairly common in Italy making the dough lighter & crisper. The eventual dough has a higher hydration upwards of 90% which produces a better dough. Higher hydration of dough has been mentioned throughout the week.

Tony focused on the make-up of the dough using a spouted grain & spoke to the utilization of ancient grains for a dough which is healthier to eat. Using these grains with minimal use of yeast produces a product with more balanced Pizza components evenly present leading to a more satisfying Pizza experience. Both techniques add to the “digestability” of the food.

Tony Gemignani's version of Pizza ala Spana

Tony Gemignani's version of Pizza ala Spana

Graziano Bertuzza is a legend of pizza making

Graziano Bertuzza is a legend of pizza making

Another unique feature of the Pizza alla Pala is that most of the toppings are added after the dough comes out of the oven. Graziano topped the dough with potatoes cut into small bits along with rosemary & oil; then into the oven. After the bake, a variety of toppings are added. Graziano used toppings common to Italy; shrimp marinated in OJ (genius marinate; also almonds will take out the fishy flavor), Zucchini & Asparagus marinated in oil, olives as well as shaved chocolate at the end (once again, genius).

Tony’s toppings included peppadeaux peppers, goat cheese, hot pepper oil, cheese & a final topping of greens like Arugula. “It’s all about the finishing ingredients.”

Another technique was gutting the crust in half & filling with appropriate meats & cheeses. Love that! I would also spread that with some sort of “special sauce” concoction. Samples were very tasty. Great presentation which once again demonstrates the versatility of pizza, it’s evolution & the value of innovation.

Slices of pizza out in the wild of Pizza Expo

Slices of pizza out in the wild of Pizza Expo

Day 4 also included the International Pizza Competition Final & the “Best of the Best” Bake-Off which is a competition among four past World Champions. Locally, Eric Von Hansen, last year’s winner in the Pan Division, was the Northeast Regional Champ. (At press time, regional winners were not listed for the Pan division.) This gives Caliente’s Two Regional Champs for Expo 2017. Great performance.

For the “Best of the Best”, Graziano Bertuzzo, mentioned above & Nino Coniglio, 2016 Pizza Maker of the year & a presenter from yesterday finished 1-2. No surprises; just ongoing excellence from both Pizza Masters.

With that completed, it was one more walk through the Exhibit Hall and then preparation for the trip home. Good Show!

See ya next year Pizza Expo!

See ya next year Pizza Expo!

Dispatch from Pizza Expo Day 3: Pizza Competition and 3 Critical Pizza Rules

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment
Matt Hickey's pizza entry into the pan pizza competition at the 2017 Pizza Expo

Matt Hickey's pizza entry into the pan pizza competition at the 2017 Pizza Expo

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. This year he spent time investigating the wonders of the pizza competition at Pizza Expo.. These are the fruits of his labor. Read Day 1 Here. Read Day 2 of Pizza Expo Here. 

Pizza EXPO 2017-Day 3

Day 3 continues with the International Pizza Challenge & the World Pizza Games. Local entrants include Eric Von Hansen in the Non-Traditional Division & Matt Hickey in the Pan Division. (As listed here earlier, Matt Hickey, also entered in the World Pizza Games, won the in the Dough Stretching competition.)

Eric’s entry includes a garlic-honey sauce with a steak topping. Matt’s entry has a topping which includes greens, nuts & strawberries lightly topped with balsamic. Results for both will be listed tomorrow.

Eric Von Hansen of Caliente waiting to compete at the 2017 Pizza Expo

Eric Von Hansen of Caliente waiting to compete at the 2017 Pizza Expo

Nino Conigilio Champion Pizza

I attended the Demonstration “My Champion Pizzas” conducted by Nino Coniglio, last year’s Pizza Maker of the Year from Brooklyn. With the classic Brooklyn accent & presentation style, he was a delight to watch & he certainly knows Pizza. He prepared a Mushroom Pizza; not just your typical mushroom pie but one that starts with dough that has fermented for 72 hours. Dough is worked & spread with EVOO, Pecorino Romano & Mozzarella; then topped with Portabella & Shitake mushrooms with Rosemary. Added near the end is truffle cream, pine nuts & finished with Parmigiana Reggiano.

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).

Very nice, entertaining Demo.

Of course, one other activity on Day 3 is the obligatory walk through the Exhibit Hall enjoying food sample after food sample & chit chat with the vendors.

The day ends with Pizza Expo Block Party & the completion of the World Pizza Acrobatic Games.

Tony Scardino pointing at Tony Gemigani

Tony Scardino pointing at Tony Gemigani

Dispatch From Pizza Expo Day 2: Let the World Pizza Games Begin

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment
It wouldn't be Pizza Expo without pizza.

It wouldn't be Pizza Expo without pizza.

 

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. Before sending me this report, Tommy T called me to say how demanding covering the Pizza Expo has been. These are the fruits of his labor.

Pizza EXPO 2017-Day 2

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 & food, food, & more food. I can’t recall last year’s EXPO having so much & such a variety of samples.

Day 2 also starts the beginning of the International Pizza Challenge & the World Pizza Games. Of special interest in the IPC are the entrants from Caliente’s. First of all as reported here earlier, Nick Fink from Caliente’s is the Northeast Champion in the Traditional Division, his 1st competition. Congratulations to him. Eric Von Hansen, last year’s winner in the Pan Division, is entered in the Non-Traditional Division & Matt Hickey in the Pan Division. Their competition starts tomorrow so more to follow.

An action shot of the dough stretching competition in the 2017 World Pizza Games

An action shot of the dough stretching competition in the 2017 World Pizza Games

In the World Pizza Games, Caliente’s had entrants in both the Dough Stretching & Box Folding competitions. Citizens Pie (Cleveland shop mentioned in the prequel) entrant Bonn Rassavong won the Box Folding competition with a final time in a cool 20 seconds for folding 5 boxes.

The winner of the box folding competition, Citizen Pie Bonn Rassavong

The winner of the box folding competition, Citizen Pie Bonn Rassavong

Attended the Demonstration “Make Innovation your Calling Card” where Doug Ferriman continued his theme of Innovation by developing the Unknown.

Doug Ferriman's breakfast pizza.

Doug Ferriman's breakfast pizza.


The demonstration includes making a Pizza for each meal of the day. Started with a breakfast Pizza, the next frontier in Pizza making. His dough is aged for 36 hours which produces a mix which is “fluffy & puffy”. Added to the stretched dough is a 3 cheese blend (Prov/Mozz mix, pepper jack & fontina), pepperdeaux peppers, cracked eggs; sunny side up & finished with a guacamole spread. The crust is then brushed with a maple syrup & honey mix to give it a “French toast” taste.

 

The lunch Pizza was a Reuben with spiced Pastrami (MMMmmmm), Sauerkraut, Siracha Cheese (now that’s innovation!!!!) finished with Russian dressing & garnished with crispy Jalapanos (nice touch).

The unique piece of the dinner Pizza was the use of “caviar olive oil”, a rare product from Spain where Olive Oil is encapsulated.

That makes for a busy Day 2 visiting endless rows of Exhibits & the variety of food samples, watching the Pizza competitions & another classic Pizza Demonstration. Much more to come from Day 3.      

Meats at Pizza Expo

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's Pizza 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!