Pizza Walk With Me

Let's get hyped up over some pizza.

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
Buffet5.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.

Steel City Pizza.png

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

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

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

Dan TallaricoComment
IMG_1289.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza ExpoDan Tallarico1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza Expo 2018: Tom Tallarico Arrives in Las Vegas

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

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

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

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

signs:

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

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

March Madness 2.png
March Madness 1.png

 

 AND OF COURSE, the BUFFETS. 

Buffet 2.png
Buffet BLT.png

 

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

Tom Badge.png

 

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

Pete Iron Born.png

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

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

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

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

Schedule.png

 

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

  

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

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

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

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

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

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

Pizza Legends Cooking on the Show Floor

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

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

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

Detroit Style Pizza

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

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

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

Gluten Free Pizza

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

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

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

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

 

Day 3 Ahead!

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Mercurio's award winning Neapolitan pizza

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

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

 

 

2018 Pizza Expo: Traveling to the Expo Highlight Reel

Pizza Essay, Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment

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

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

Pizza Expo International Pizza Challenge

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

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

Iron Born Visits Pizza Expo

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

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

A Young Pizza Competitor

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

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

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

Pizza ExpoDan Tallarico1 Comment
International Pizza Expo

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

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

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

The International Pizza Challenge

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

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

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

The Women of Pizza

Women of Pizza at Pizza Expo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza + Social Media, a Match Made in Heaven

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

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

Lots of Pizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

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

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

A Video of Driftwood Oven's Permanent Location in Lawrenceville

Pizza Video, Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment

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

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

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

 

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

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