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

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment
Bon Appetite Driftwood Oven top 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

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.



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.

Driftwood Oven Looks to Community to Raise Some Dough

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment

Welp, the Driftwood Oven boys are at it again. Towards the end of November they announced that they were going to focus their Winter energy on making Matteo's old house their home and open a shop on Butler St. After years of traveling around the city, battling for their lives in multiple pizza dojos, and dealing with the elements, Neil and Justin thought they deserved a solid roof over their heads.

After all, they ventured to the corners of the city to serve us pizza, it's about time we travel their way. 

Driftwood Oven is opening up in the old Matteo's spot on Butler Street. I'm not sure what happened to Matteo's, but I'm confident a somewhat casual pizza shop will do wonders in the Lawrenceville area. But, because they're upgrading from a tent to a sturdy structure with an actual roof they need a bit of help with the extra expenses. So they launched a Kickstarter to raise the extra money

I'm typically a bit skeptical of Kickstarters because creators tend to get a too grandiose with their promises. Typically resulting in failed goals or setting impossible expectations. The steady rolling Driftwood Oven crew has hit a sweet spot with their rewards and have a solid track record of quality to back up their promises. 

The rewards are far from crazy and give you an opportunity to pre-buy pizzas at bulk discounts. For $100 you get an invite to their Kickstarter Party which is already in the running for the 2018 Pizza Party of the year.

Driftwood Oven is a success and pizza shop like no other. They are hard workers who built a pizza empire from scratch. As of this writing the Kickstarter is about eight hours old and has already raised over $10,000. Each of those dollars represents a delicious archer they served in the dark winter nights outside Staghorn Cafe in Greenfield and the long days of prepping dough for those sweltering days outside of Grist House. 

Why Driftwood Oven Going to Kickstarter is Great for the Community

A couple of classic pies from Driftwood Oven

A couple of classic pies from Driftwood Oven

I am a firm believer that everyone's favorite pizza place is whatever they were raised on. Luciano's and Monte Cello's hold a special place in my heart even though their modern forms may not be the greatest version of their pie. Driftwood Oven having a permanent home will give family's another great option for Friday pizzas and I bet you that place will host someone's birthday each weekend. Maybe so much that they'll create a Driftwood Oven Birthday Song?

More importantly, Butler Street is peppered with businesses that are out of touch with the neighborhood. It's the unfortunate side effect of the population boom and investors trying to capitalize on a trend. Participating in the Driftwood Oven Kickstarter gives residence a way to say "I made this happen" and "This is the kind of business I want in my backyard."

Can you even believe that Butler St is anchored on one end by Driftwood oven and on the other Slice Island? Pittsburgh has certainly become the secret pizza capitol of the North East. 

One final thing - their mobile pizza unit isn't going anywhere as they said they'll roll it out of the shop when things get a bit warmer. Stay tuned for more Driftwood Oven pizza updates.



Italy Official Owns Neapolitan Pizza - What Does That Mean for the Future of Pizza?

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment
Vera Pizza Sign

Well, it’s official. Italy and Naples are the clear owners of Neapolitan pizza. Unesco, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has given pizza “intangible heritage” status. Meaning it is officially part of Italy’s cultural tapestry. They official own neapolitan pizza.

This makes sense as they’ve been trying to regulate and control pizza for years. Everyone knew that neapolitan style pizza belonged to the fine folks in Naples, where it was originally created, but now it’s official. There’s some comfort in official decrees much as there’s comfort in Neapolitan pizza itself.

Because of strict regulations neapolitan pizza’s consistency is rivaled only by Starbucks. You can walk into any restaurant that features the pizzaiolo mascot (a man in a white outfit and black mask) and know exactly what you’re getting. It’s a sign of quality, fresh cheese, and San Marzano tomatoes. As it’s grown in popularity there have been several liberties taken to the pizza that stalwarts find quite offensive.

Neapolitan Pizza adheres to a strict set of rules. The fine folks at Forno Bravo actually translated the latest update to the regulations around neapolitan pizza. There are eight article that describe how to make the pizza, what flour to use, the temperature of each ingredient, how to serve the pizza and even the signage promoting the use of neapolitan pizza. You can read it in its entirety here.

The regulations are extensive, but if you had created one of the most popular foods and saw it evolve into a medium to house things like buffalo chicken and ranch dressing wouldn’t you go the extra mile to put some rules around the lawless mess? But those rules can stifle creativity. My favorite pizza comes when pizza makers take the neapolitan style and tweak it ever so slightly to create what pizza enthusiasts call “neo-neapolitan” pizza.

The Green Pointer from Pizza Taglio is a wonderful evolution of the future of pizza.

The Green Pointer from Pizza Taglio is a wonderful evolution of the future of pizza.

Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Enters the Ring

Neo-neapolitan pizza gives the pizzaiolo more control and agency about how to cook the pizza. Whether they want to mess with the shape, cheese and tomatoes, or the temperature of the oven. Neo-neapolitan is an evolution of the classic, and if pizza wants to maintain its ubiquity you’ll see the younger generation adopt fewer guidelines. After all, a refusal to change and adapt has doomed plenty of industries.

A perfect example of neo-neapolitan pizza is what Tony makes at Pizza Taglio. Tony cooks at a lower temperature and plays around with the rise time of dough and core ingredients. It may look like the Wikipedia entry for pizza, but someone from Naples would see the difference almost immediately. The Green Pointer is what happens when someone who knows the rules and regulations around pizza and understands the right way to (respectfully) break them.  The creation isn’t disastrous or alarming, it’s familiar but at the same time new and intriguing. 

Neo-Neapolitan pizza builds a bridge between the past and future. It’s a fun spin on the classic, but contains enough of the fundamental aspects of pizza to deliver that comfortness that we’ve come to expect from neapolitan pizza.

Another view of the delicious Green Pointer, which I would love to be eating this very second.

Another view of the delicious Green Pointer, which I would love to be eating this very second.

Michigan & Trumbull Delivers Delicious Detroit Style Pizza to Pittsburgh

Pizza News, Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment
Michigan and Trumbull Detroit style Pizza


“What is Detroit Style pizza and why is it coming to Pittsburgh?” is a question I get a lot lately. 

Well, Pittsburgh is a culinary melting pot and it makes sense that eventually this city will play host to the largest variety of pizza in the country. As Pittsburgh sits in the midst of the Rust Belt, the city is uniquely poised to take advantage of the trends migrating to the East Coast and vice versa.

Michigan & Trumbull, run by Kristin Calverley and Nate Peck, is the latest Detroit Style pizza shop to open in Pittsburgh, the first being Iron Born in Smallman Gallery. Michigan & Trumbull is following their lead and opening up inside Federal Galley, the "sequel" to Smallman Galley, on the North Side.

I was lucky enough to visit Michigan & Trumbull during their pop-up at The Vandal. While they sold out amazingly fast and left a behind a wake of happy customers, I got a chance to sample their vegan pizza. Which, I gotta tell ya that this was a true delight to eat and I hope it is a staple on their menu. The creamy rémoulade is a fine substitute for cheese and the eggplant provided plenty of flavor. It is the perfect compliment to the cheese and red sauce that decorates a majority of pizzas.

The Michigan & Trumbull vegan pizza is not to be missed!

The Michigan & Trumbull vegan pizza is not to be missed!

While Pittsburgh doesn’t have its own well-defined style of pizza, it’s strange that Detroit of all places does. Like most things in Detroit, you can thank the motor industry for that. Pans used for car manufacturing happened to perfectly double as pizza pans. So what's Detroit Style pizza? As Nate Peck says, “I think what makes Detroit style pizza is the deep blue steel pan, and the cheese pushed to the very edge before cooking. This gives you the crispy cheese edge we love so much.”

And that’s the beauty of Detroit Style pizza. In some ways it is the antithesis of New York style and a distant cousin of Chicago pizza. Instead of a floppy triangle, Detroit style pizza is traditionally served as rectangles.It’s thick, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. 

The outside crust supports the sauce, cheese, and just about anything you can throw onto the slice. It’s an architectural beast that soaks up greasy pepperoni or fresh tomato sauce.

Stacks of pizza dough waiting to hit the oven.

Stacks of pizza dough waiting to hit the oven.

So, why aren’t we seeing more Detroit Style pizza? Why is Michigan & Trumbull getting into this business now? 

Nate Peck says:

I’m not exactly sure what has taken the rest of the world to find out about Detroit style pizza. Honestly growing up in the Detroit area I didn't even think twice about it only being a Detroit thing. I thought we just had a choice of round and square. Then we moved to Pittsburgh and were like wait, nobody has anything close to pizza like home? which is why I started playing around with the dough and ordered a few pans.

Creating the dough for Detroit Style pizza, and the cooking process, is an involved. It’s not as simple as slapping the dough into the oven, rotating it out, and placing it on a tray. There's a lot that happens to the dough before it gets stretched out.

Nate describes his dough process to me, saying:

For our dough I do a 15 hour 'poolish' taking 20% of the doughs flour and water with a pinch of yeast and fermenting at room temperature. I then mix the rest of the ingredients. I usually do about 500-525 degrees for 12-15 minutes. You have to make sure you let the dough rise halfway up each pan after portioning.

For the sauce we do a really simple, fresh sauce. Using Stanislaus tomatoes. We don’t cook it very long to ensure it keeps its fresh tomato flavor. Since we do a nice long bake on the pizza I  use a whole milk mozzarella so it doesn’t burn.

Expect Michigan & Trumbull to setup shop in the Federal Galley when it opens this year. Keep up to date with Michigan & Trumbull on Facebook. I'll keep you posted on any other Michigan & Trumbull updates here on Pizza Walk With Me.




Pizza Dojo 4: Driftwood Oven vs Pizza Boat

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment
Pizza Dojo 4 From Downtown

Pizza Dojo 4 (technically the 5th Pizza Dojo event) has been announced for this Saturday, November 11th. Once again, Pizza Boat has emerged from the shadows and challenged Driftwood Oven to a two-enter-one-leaves pizza showdown of epic proportions .


Typically these challenges appear out of thin air, like a spectre who emerges from purgatory with unfinished business. Pizza Boat's unfinished business stems from the rampant ranking of pizzas happening in Pittsburgh this season.

Most recently, The Incline started a peculiar pizza bracket (which I was interviewed for here) that gave the ranking power to the Pittsburgh citizens. Much like the 2016 election, no pollster could imagine the outcome (except for me who actually did a pretty solid job predicting the winners. I guess that makes me the Nate Silver of pizza polls?).

Driftwood Oven was unceremoniously knocked out of the bracket in the first round and Pizza Boat was snubbed entirely. Pizza Boat took their aggression to Twitter as their therapist was clearly sick of their bellyaching.

Pizza Boat taunted Driftwood Oven in their classic fashion and pondered about the proper way to rank pizzas. Should there be a governing body? What about a list of listicles? How specific should the rankings go and why didn’t anyone rank the darkest place for pizza? It was here that Pizza Boat struck gold. While both pizza makers were victims to the bracket, they would create a competition that caters to their strengths. 

Pizza Dojo events traditionally take place in the midst of Autumn when daylight is a sparse commodity and farmers relish the early morning sunlight. While most pizza makers are blessed with interior lighting, Pizza Boat and Driftwood Oven brave the elements to make pizza by the glow of the moon. A harsh environment, yes, but they pride themselves on being ranked highest (by themselves) for “darkest place to eat pizza.”

The fifth Pizza Dojo event, Pizza Dojo 4, takes place Saturday, November 11, in the lot behind Spirit Hall. Watch a video of last year’s event here featuring Rick Sebak:


Michigan & Trumbull Detroit Pizza Pop-Up at The Vandal

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment
Michigan & Trumbull Detroit Style Pizza

I hope you're into Detroit Style Pizza because it is slowly taking over Pittsburgh. The latest entrant in that arena is Michigan & Trumbull. They're a Detroit Style Pizza shop that was shocked to find a lack of that good, thick, crunchy pizza here in Pittsburgh. In Nate Peck's (chef/owner of Michigan & Trumbull) own words, "Then we moved to Pittsburgh and were like wait, nobody has anything close to pizza like home? which is why I started playing around with the dough and ordered a few pans."

I'll have a more thorough interview with them on the site later, but today is the day you can sample their pizza. They'll be setting up shop at The Vandal tonight in Lawrenceville from 5pm - Whenever-we-run-out-o-clock. 

Here's the menu of pizza they'll have at The Vandal this evening:

Michigan & Trumbull pizza menu

And here's a sample of what the pizza may look like right before you take a chomp!

Michigan and Trumbull pizza



Badamo's Pizza Nestles into the North Side

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment

Uh oh folks. I think the holy trinity of food is finally complete on the North Side. On the corner of Federal and North Ave, there has always been a reliable stop for hotdogs and burritos. But pizza? Well, save for a Pizza Hut, that area has been a pizza desert. 

Badamo's Pizza is here to save the day.  

This is the second location for A'Pizza Badamo, their first being in Mt. Lebanon. The pizzeria is known for delicious, stylish pizzas and a "yes and" atmosphere. It's like if Michaelangelo opened a pizzeria. Both the Ninja Turtle and the Renaissance Man. But they opened the shop together. 

 Stay tuned for more updates as I walk by this work-in-progress on my lunch breaks.  

Man Defies God, Attempts World's Longest Pizza

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment
World's Longest Pizza Attempt


Attempting records is an inherent part of anyone's spiritual journey; something that unites. Something that brings out the very best in everyone. A reason to celebrate humanity and friendship. 

That's pulled from the, the site for the World's Longest Pizza attempt. The event is taking place today, June 10th, at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. To compete for the record a team of the greatest pizza makers joined forces, like a pizza version of the Avengers. The team consists of: Tony GemignaniGiulio Adriani, Tom Leehman, John Arena, Fred Mortati, Massimo Balacchi, Mario Vollera and Jimmy DeSisto.

Here's some of the logistics and stats for this attempt:

*The dough weighs about 8000lbs
*The sauce will weigh about 5600lbs
*The cheese will weigh about 3600lbs
*Total weight of the pizza= 17200lbs at around 7000’
*The oven will be moving at around 17’/min. The assemblers will need to work fast or the oven will catch up with them. The oven is cooking at around 700°F; once it starts its journey it cannot pause or stop.
*The assemblers will be rotated every 90 min or so, so they can have breaks and move to other ares that they will be needed, etc. If all goes well, we should be done in under 8 hrs. We will add some toppings to the last 1000’ of the pizza for variety.

Logistically, this might be the most complicated pizza in the world. The pizza makers must constantly be dealing with the dough, managing the ingredients and ensuring everything is in its place. Here's a few photos from the attempt taken by Scott Anthony, a regular pizza correspondent for Pizza Today and the owner of Punxy Pizza. I'll keep you updated as the attempt continues.

Some wonder if humidity and the weather will be an issue? Coincidentally, this is the second World Record Attempt to take place on a racetrack. In May, Nike attempted a sub 2 hour marathon attempt on a racetrack in Italy.





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.




Endless Pizza Buffet Officially Launches at Spirit Lounge in Lawrenceville

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment

When I my grandmother babysat me years ago I had two objectives. 1) Convince her I needed to go to Children's Palace because there was a video game I just wanted to "look at" then hope she bought it for me. 2) Drop hints about the gorgeous, plentiful Pizza Hut buffet until we decided that it wasn't worth it to cook and we should head to the buffet post-haste. 

These days it's hard to find a pizza buffet that's worth the caloric assault on your body, that is until Spirit Lounge (located on 51st street in Lawrenceville) came along to change the buffet game. Spirit's Slice Island has been experimenting with a Sunday pizza buffet for months. Now, they've finally perfected the formula and are formerly launching their buffet tomorrow, January 17th

From their press release, "Each week a variety of food options are available, including pizzas with veg and meat toppings, biscuits and gravy, sausage, french toast sticks, salad, granola, yogurt, quiche, potatoes, and desserts."

Here's why this pizza buffet is the dopest thing you can do on Sunday between noon and 4pm. 

Pizza Sign in the depths of Spirit Lounge

Loyalty Program

Along with the official grand opening of the buffet, Spirit is rolling out its Spirit Brunch Club. You'll receive a Brunch Club card that's stamped whenever you visit. Rewards include free brunch, Spirit Brunch Club t-shirt and a Club Card after five brunches. Who knows what awaits at brunch #10!

Pizza by Slice Island

Slice island makes some crispy, delicious, fresh and cheesy pizza. I've eaten a whole box of their pizza by myself simply because my body craved the flavor. The opportunity to eat an endless amount of their pizza for the low price of $11 is ludicrous. I don't know how they'll stay in business with a buffet of this caliber firing on all cylinders. 

Music by a suite of Pittsburgh DJs

Enjoy the tunes of local DJs spinning tracks that help you digest food just a bit faster. Here's a schedule of DJs for the coming month:

  • James Gyre on 1/17/16
  • Ricky Moslen on 1/24/16
  • Jordan Weeks on 1/31/16
  • J. Malls on 2/7/16
  • V-Day Brunch with Zombo on 2/14/16

This brunch sounds like a winning combo - when you add in a rotating option of bloody marks and mimoas you've just found yourself in brunch heaven

A couple of slices from Slice Island

Pizza Dojo 3 - Pizza Boat vs Driftwood Oven. Is the World Wide Enough for Two Mobile Pizza Units?

Pizza News, Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

The build up to Pizza Dojo 3 was tense and uncomfortable. Witnessing two pizza artists prepare for battle is never easy. At the end of the day, can't we all just survive alongside one another? Pizza Boat and Driftwood Oven thought otherwise; two pizza makers would enter the Pizza Dojo, a parking lot conveniently located behind Spirit Lounge (Pizza Boat's HQ), and maybe only one pizza team would survive. Or both. The rules are somewhat unclear what "winning" is considered at these events.

Much like the famous duel between Burr and Hamilton, this was a battle that would change the course of the pizza stream flowing through time. Would a victory propel whomever to grow and prosper? Would defeat mean that Driftwood oven or Pizza Boat was legally obligated to never make pizza again? 

Luckily, this battle was too close to call. I think at the end it was a honest-to-goodness tie. 

Neil and Justin work the pizza oven. They hired a ninja to work the front of house. 

Neil and Justin work the pizza oven. They hired a ninja to work the front of house. 

Pizza Boat and Driftwood Oven each brought two types of pizza to the event. One from the family of Pepperoni and another filled with vegetables.  For $15 you got to have one of each - this may go down in history as the pizza deal of the year.

Driftwood Oven prettied up their pepperoni offering by topping their pie with chili flakes and Spanish chorizo. On a cold autumn evening, the extra spiciness was a welcome reprieve from the surrounding cold.

Here's the Roni from Driftwood Oven. I love how the pizza crust forms a valley of pizza. 

Here's the Roni from Driftwood Oven. I love how the pizza crust forms a valley of pizza. 

On the other end, we have Pizza Boat who kept it simple. They know what their audience wants and that's a pizza cooked to perfection, with a soft and chewy dough topped with fresh pepperoni. 

There was no decadence with this pizza. This was pizza 101 performed by a master of the craft. Unlike most pepperoni pizzas, there wasn't a pool of grease to traverse. I'm inclined to think that if you looked up "pepperoni pizza" in an encyclopedia you'd see a photo below of Pizza Boat's pizza.

Pizza Boat's Pepperoni Pizza. Textbook execution.

Pizza Boat's Pepperoni Pizza. Textbook execution.

With another Pizza Dojo in the books we close a chapter on a pizza rivalry. Was there a winner? Well, no. Choosing a winner at a Pizza Dojo isn't up to us. Only history and pizza historians will truly be able to judge the winner.  I'm sure they'll cover this event at Mozzarella University in Pizza History 201.

Pizza Dojo isn't about a single night in Pittsburgh, it's about trying something new in the Pittsburgh pizza scene. Pushing one another to innovate and make better pizza.

Instead of existing side-by-side for years on a street in Squirrel Hill and pretending that the world on the other side of the counter hasn't changed, the pizza makers that enter the Pizza Dojo emerge with a new perspective. A new definition of pizza. Confidence to try something new and push the pizza envelope to the edge of the table.

The Pizza Boat crew worked efficiently through the night. A well oiled machine that made sure you didn't wait more than five minutes for a pizza.

The Pizza Boat crew worked efficiently through the night. A well oiled machine that made sure you didn't wait more than five minutes for a pizza.

Like this pizza article? Feel free to follow me on Twitter for even more pizza updates. 

Pizza Dojo 3: Driftwood Oven vs Pizza Boat

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment
Pizza Dojo 3: Driftwood Oven vs Pizza Boat, a match of the millennia 

Pizza Dojo 3: Driftwood Oven vs Pizza Boat, a match of the millennia 

When last we left the Pizza Boat gang, they were serving up pies against Rick Easton's exquisite Bread + Salt pizza, hoping a loss wouldn't send them to the nether realm of pizza: Slice Island. 

That was back in July of 2014. Since then pizza empires have risen and crumbled into nothingness. The sauce that flooded the streets after Pizza Dojo 2 has dried up and crusted around the gutters. The world was quiet and peace was brought to Pittsburgh's pizza world. 

That is, until Driftwood Oven showed up. Seemingly inspired by Pizza Boat, Driftwood Oven is a mobile pizza unit that travels around the city, hangs outside of breweries and even has a semi-permanent residence at The Vandal every Sunday. Driftwood Oven has taken over the mobile pizza game. 

Neil serves up some pizzas in the heart of Greenfield. 

Neil serves up some pizzas in the heart of Greenfield. 

Pizza Boat sensed a disturbance. They broke free of their Slice Island prison in the basement of the Spirit Lodge and warned Driftwood Oven of their trespassing.

Pizza Boat was ruthless in their criticism of Driftwood Oven. Was it jealousy? Did Pizza Boat lose faith in their craft and now resort to lashing out at their competition? No one said the pizza business was easy, but some folks think that Pizza Boat went too far. 

With one final insult, Pizza Boat hit the right button and Driftwood Oven caved into their demands. 

Then, Pizza Dojo 3 was officially announced

No one is sure what happens during a Pizza Dojo. Do the pizza gods momentarily stop their work to witness to pizzerias slice and dice to the death? Anthropologists think that the Pizza Dojo is an ancient ritual performed by pizzaiolos during 5,000 B.C. The purpose was to find who was building the best pizzas, with the winners being sent into isolation to refine their pizza technique. That's how Italy was established.

In the modern era, Pizza Dojo is used a last resort to settle pizza disputes. It's the modern day "Bring your six-shooter, kiss your kids goodbye and meet me in town center at high noon." In the Pizza Dojo, there can only be one winner.

Driftwood Oven declined to comment about the Pizza Dojo. They are masters of their craft who prefer to focus on their dough than chilidish antics. There's no doubt that Neil is tinkering with a revolutionary dough recipe that will make Pizza Boat look like fools.

Driftwood Oven taking the high road is honorable, but, this may be their undoing. The Pizza Dojo is no place for rules or honor. A sense of pride only gets in the way of victory.

Since Pizza Boat has lost their souls during the Pizza Dojo: Anticrust event (which was technically Pizza Dojo 3), I'm confident they'll pull out any tricks to emerge victorious. 

But the true winners are pizza enthusiasts like you and me. For only $15, you get a pizza from both competitors. Come by The Spirit Lodge in Lawrenceville this Saturday, November 14 at 6pm to see Pizza Boat and Driftwood Oven square off in the pizza ring. I'll be covering the event on site.

Missed what happened during the 2nd Pizza Dojo? Here's a special report from  Pizza Correspondent, Chad McMutrie.