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 Here. Read 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.
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.
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!