Pizza Walk With Me

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Tallarico Toast: A Pizza and Avocado Toast Mashup from Michigan & Trumbull

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
A whole tray of the fabled, hard to find, Tallarico Toast by Michigan & Trumbull

A whole tray of the fabled, hard to find, Tallarico Toast by Michigan & Trumbull

When it comes to food I often find myself falling into specific patterns. Pizza, for example, is a dish that makes up a healthy percentage of my intake. But that's more of an evening meal for me. On the flip side, under the morning sun I've gotten into this great habit of munching on Avocado Toast every morning. 

Avocado Toast and pizza seem like complete opposites but have a lot in common. Obviously, both have.a base of bread, some sort of spread, followed by.a sprinkling of toppings. And even more obvious is that they're amazingly delicious. If pizza is the king of the Friday night family meal then Avocado Toast is the queen of a weekend breakfast. Which means these two foods rule of the entire Kingdom of Food?

So, where is this all going? If you are what you eat and I was suddenly turned into a type of pizza I guess that means I would be turned into what Michigan & Trumbull calls Tallarico Toast. 

Tallarico Toast is equal parts pizza and avocado toast. The base is the same as their Packard Pepperoni or other, more traditional, Detroit style pizzas. A crunchy and soft crust. On top of that is a proprietary avocado spread made from the essence of pure avocados. It's thick and creamy and sticks loyally to the crust. Now this would be enough to be considered avocado toast, but Michigan & Trumbull does not settle or shy away from innovation. 

Michigan and Trumbull's excellent Tallarico Toast

Michigan and Trumbull's excellent Tallarico Toast

Topping the avocado spread are pickled onions, radishes, and watercress greens. After a bit of R&D they swapped out regular olive oil for olive oil infused with a bit of lime. The zest makes this next-level stuff. 

The chef's behind Michigan & Trumbull are true alchemists that absolutely understand the fundamentals of pizza. They're able to bend the rules, experiment, and create hit after hit. The Tallarico Toast is a temporary alien addition to their menu, but it fits into their lineup of pizzas perfectly.

During its one-week stay I'm sure Tallarico Toast broke records —most times the Tallarico name has been uttered in one week, most delicious brunch pizza without an egg cracked in the middle or most avocados used in a pizzeria — but let's hope it makes its return one day to show how versatile and beautiful of a pizza canvas is.

Pizza Journalist Dan Tallarico Eating Tallarico Toast

Pizza Journalist Dan Tallarico Eating Tallarico Toast

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

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: 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. 



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.

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!

Villa Reale Pizzeria: if Yinzers Founded Italy

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
The classic sausage and green peppers pizza. This pizza was perfectly cooked, sturdy, and toppings evenly spread out. 

The classic sausage and green peppers pizza. This pizza was perfectly cooked, sturdy, and toppings evenly spread out. 

I imagine that there's fan fiction out in the world that describes in detail what would happen if a rag-tag crew of Pittsburghers traveled across the Atlantic and settled onto the fine country of Italy. They'd call their vibrant land "Yintaly" and their flag would flutter in Southern Italian Wind boasting colors of black, gold, green, red and white. And their pizzas and pizzerias would be modeled after the fine bar/pizzeria of Villa Reale in downtown Pittsburgh.

Villa Reale is a hidden ball of mozzarella in downtown Pittsburgh, nestled next to Weiner World on Smithfield Street, it's an unassuming pizza parlor. When you first enter you notice how unbelievably long this building it. There's a bar in front of the ovens that extend as far as Italy until it opens up into a dining room. I would not be surprised if the blueprints show that this building is modeled off of Italy's boot-shape.

Me and my pizza crew sat in the dining room, but I'm interested in going back for the bar experience. I have a hunch that that's the "right" way to enjoy Villa Reale because you can sip beer and get a front-row seat for the pizza making. That's a tough combo to find in Pittsburgh, but a huge plus for making the trip to Villa Reale.

This half plain, half capicolla was a bit of a mess. Cheese flooded the center and it was unruly. I think it was because this was an XL, a troublesome size. 

This half plain, half capicolla was a bit of a mess. Cheese flooded the center and it was unruly. I think it was because this was an XL, a troublesome size. 

My pizza crew had two pizzas: a sausage and green pepper and a half-plain half-capicolla. These pizzas may have been made on opposite sides of the world by random strangers. The plain/capicolla had enough cheese for four pizzas while the sausage/green peppers was slice after slice of perfection. How do they do it? How do they churn out such different pizzas?

It sounds like a bad thing, but to me it's comfort. With the boom of artisan pizzerias, it's somewhat refreshing to be served a gloopy moat of cheese and a crisp, crunchy medley of sausage and peppers. It adds an extra layer of mystique and yes, of course we ate all but one slice.

Villa Reale's pizza is the kind of pizza that has a crust that is so volatile that some parts may shatter in your mouth and others are soft and chewy. It's the phenomenon that happens when air pockets form in the crust leaving behind bites that explode like landmines. The slight imperfections of this pizza is what makes it so classic and Pittsburgh-esque.  

I'd put Villa Reale up there with one of my lifetime favorites, Mama Lucia's. I love the mix of Italian heritage and Pittsburgh and they created an odd mish-mash of an environment that you can only find in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Here is an unfortunate slice of plain pizza that looks like Laura Palmer wrapped up in plastic on the side of a river.

Here is an unfortunate slice of plain pizza that looks like Laura Palmer wrapped up in plastic on the side of a river.

Next time I go to work on my Pittsburgh x Italy crossover fan fiction, I'll do it at the Villa Rae bar. The perfect environment to chat with surly waiters and eat the finest food Italy has to offer. This is pizza that pairs well with a cold Miller High Life or whatever light beer of your choosing.

As a bonus, try to find the photo of a (younger?) Mona Lisa in front of a painting of the Mona Lisa. This really is the icing on the tiramisu. 


Can't Beat Driftwood Oven's Beet Pizza, The Beetza

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
Driftwood Oven Beets

In the midst of a summer heat session, sometimes the margherita doesn't feel like the right pizza. The goo-factor of the cheese can clog you up, slow you down, and pump the breaks one of those often sung about summer nights. Spicy sausage or pepperoni exacerbates the heat draining your body of useful liquids. Boy, just typing this sentence is giving me the sweats.

Driftwood Oven has taken in account all those variables and algorithms and created a pizza perfect for summer chowing: The Beetza.

Yes, pizza is perfect for every season, but the weather impacts the pizza nuance. And this Beetza is a quintessential summer pizza. Almost as refreshing as a sparkling spritz or an ice-cold High Life.

We'll get to the beets in a moment, but this pizza has a soft, creamy layer that blends perfectly with a summer evening. The mixture is made up of crème fraîche, ricotta and Old Gold cheese (basically aged cheddar). It's gooey and light, giving you the perfect lubricant to put down a couple of airy slices. Chives are scattered on top of the pizza like celebratory confetti. They provide festive flair and a bit of flavor. The star of the show is, of course, the beets.


While beets are traditionally a delicious winter vegetable, there's no law against slicing them up for a delicious, bouncy pizza. Beets can be a flavor dead end. If they are not prepared well enough you get that wonderful earthy flavor in your mouth. The kind of flavor worms would die for. The Beetza comes corrects with the beet flavoring. 

Instead of that earth flavor, every bite of beets is a burst of delicious, "rooty," flavor. When combined with the crust, the cream and a bit of caramelized onion, you get a sophisticated flavor in the form of a pizza. 

Of course, the amazingly consistent Driftwood Oven crust plays host to these flavors and doesn't falter one bit under the heap of toppings. 

The Beet Pizza is a potpourri of fun and flavor that pairs perfectly with a well cracked cold one. For those that don't enjoy beets, check this out as I know you'll be pleasantly surprised. 

Finally, here's a photo of a non-beet pizza. Just for fun.

Bonus margherita Pizza

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.

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!

Bury Me with My Pizza Cutter

Pizza CreationsDan Tallarico1 Comment

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

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

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

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

PizzaCutter And Pizza

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

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


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

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

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



Pizza 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.

The True Watermark of Success for a City is Pizza - Pittsburgh is Swimming in Delicious Grease

Pizza EssayDan Tallarico3 Comments

That’s not humidity clinging to your body. Those aren’t beads of sweat forming on the bridge of your sweat. Those are droplets of grease; our atmosphere is ever-changing but right now the climate is stunningly pro-pizza. Staggeringly so. There was a time where the best pizza in Pittsburgh was locked in a 50 year old pizza house that hasn’t changed their formula in years. Now, you need a Pizza Tour Guide to help you scout out and find every pizza gem in the city. You could spend an entire day eating pizza and barely scratch Pittsburgh’s doughy surface.

Pittsburgh swells with innovation, health, bike lanes and great food. Bakery Square is becoming its own personal pan pizza with every amenity and topping to keep residents from venturing outside its crusty walls.

Luxury apartments are going up in Lawrenceville, The Strip and any place where water is nearby, like a family of sea monkeys brought to life with some of earth’s water. Where once you could see a bright yellow bridge you instead see a new PNC building or a hotel. Contractors can hardly finish their Primanti’s sandwich between having to tear down old warehouses and build rows of apartments. Whatever yeast has been sitting dormant in Pittsburgh is now beginning to proof.

It’s all exciting stuff and there’s no doubt that Pittsburgh is growing fast. But to me the true testament of growth for a city is the wealth of pizza options. Whereas a few years ago answering “Best Pizza in Pittsburgh?” took a moment. It was a dry question, easy to swallow and easier to spit back up.

Just a stack of Pizza al Taglio

Just a stack of Pizza al Taglio


But answering that question today? Man, you have to narrow it down. Do you mean neapolitan pizza? Roman? New York style pizza? Wood-fired oven? Brick oven? Vegan? Gluten free? Which neighborhood? Delivery? Sit down?  The age-old pizza question is impossible to answer without specifying what pizza breed you’re talking about.

Because the secret is that the best Pizza in Pittsburgh is everywhere, and most of it didn't exist five years ago.

Some of Pittsburgh’s best pizza comes from Bread and Salt, a bread shop in Bloomfield. They’ve received nation attention for their pizza al taglio, which is the second place in Pittsburgh that is bringing that Roman delight to Pittsburgh. The second being Pizza Taglio in East Liberty, and both are thriving.

Then of course you have your utility pizza. This is the kind of pizza crave after a night of drinking, after a hard day of work, and when it’s too hot or too cold outside. It’s pizza you convince yourself you need when life is tossing a few sucker punches your way. These days, every neighborhood has easy access to one or two of these shops. I can actually walk outside my door in Lawrenceville be outside The Pizza Company, Fazio’s or Graziano’s in two minutes.

Slice on Broadway keeps Beechview flowing with pizza.

Grab your dead cat and swing it around your head. I’m confident your cat corpse will graze against a building that contains bags of cheese, a dough mixer and pumps out pizzas frantically on Sunday and feeds the masses Friday and Saturday night.

The delicious grease can be found in any neighborhood no matter the price of real estate. Can you believe the author of The Pizza Bible, Tony Gemignani, chose Caliente (Yeah, Caliente in Bloomfield) spent his one day making pizza in Pittsburgh. Caliente doesn’t have a steep legacy of feeding the Steelers. They aren’t written about in the New York Times. But the folks at Caliente care and they put their heart into the pies they make. And every pizza that they make perks Bloomfield up just a little bit more.

Beyond pizzerias there is a wave of mobile pizza units sprouting around Pittsburgh. Like the seeds of a dandelion plant blowing through town, you never quite know when you’ll stumble into a mobile pizza unit. A cart, a truck, a table with a quaint tent and an oven is all anyone needs. Pow - you got pizza in your zipcode.

Pizza Boat, one of the first Pittsburgh mobile units, served up some of the best pizza in Pittsburgh. They're now at home at Slice Island at Spirit Lodge in Lawrenceville.

I try to eat at as many mobile units that I can, mostly because the reaction from natives is always new. “Where did yinz come from?” they’ll ask, their tattered Polamalu jersey flowing in the wind. With each question they come to terms with the idea that there’s pizza available a block from their house today, but tomorrow they’ll be gone. Those that give in are rewarded with fresh ingredients, most are sourced locally, and an investment in a unit that could become a weekly staple in their neighborhood.

Between Driftwood Oven, Flatbread Pizza, and The Brownstone, you have a Ringling Bros. Pizza Circus forming.

Spak Brothers organized a pizza eating contest at this year's Pizza Fest.

Spak Brothers organized a pizza eating contest at this year's Pizza Fest.

Most of the pizzerias I listed here didn’t exist five years ago. And no one is showing signs of slowing down. Pittsburgh never got too fancy with their pizza. It was a Friday night thing for a long time. Slowly and surely, Pizza is evolving in Pittsburgh. Its tentacles are finding its way into all aspects of the city, integrating itself with the steel core.

Pizza is so personal to every citizen because it’s introduced to us at such a young age and so often. Fridays after school you’d get pizza. Sleepovers you’d have pizza. If you read a book you got pizza. Kid’s love it and it’s affordable. As we develop pizza binds itself to our DNA. Whether we realize it or not pizza is a dish that has made a tremendous impact on us all. It’s a food for everyone.

When I delivered pizzas it wasn’t uncommon to take two pies out for delivery, one to a house that looked like could have been a half-way house and the other being a tiny mansion in the city. The only difference being the amount of 2-Litre Pepsi bottles I had to carry up their steps.

Before long Pittsburgh won’t be heralded for its medical advancements or sports teams. Or its education institutions or livability. Or whatever criteria someone decides to use to rank cities. Pittsburgh will be known far and wide for its illustrious pizza eco-system. And the fact that this basic food is thriving in Pizza is all you need to see to see that Pittsburgh is doing better than ever. 

Pizza is a food of the people. As Pittsburgh grows and thrives it only makes sense that more pizza shops open up to meet the demand of every Pittsburgher.



Pizza Pitruco Mobilizes Wood-Fired Pizza

Pizza VideoDan Tallarico1 Comment

A while back I was lucky enough to attend my pal Scott's wedding. It was a great time full of poignant moments, dancing, and a sea of friends. Stellar stuff.

After all the festivities, everyone shuttled back to the hotel to find food truck waiting for us. In the thick of the night, the Pitruco food truck glistened and we fluttered over to them like moths to a flame. They served dozens of wood-fired pizzas from their truck, each one more complex and delicious than the previous pizza. 

I was lucky enough to make my way on the truck and interview one of the owners, Jonah. Enjoy the video and if you're ever in the Philadelphia area be sure to track down the Pitruco food truck!


Interview with Ryan Spak, an Owner of Spak Brothers Pizza in Pittsburgh

Dan Tallarico1 Comment
This is the shirt Common Wealth press designed to aid Spak Brothers. All proceeds go to Spak,  you can buy the shirt here .

This is the shirt Common Wealth press designed to aid Spak Brothers. All proceeds go to Spak, you can buy the shirt here.

As you're aware, near the middle of August, Spak Brothers had a run of bad luck that the likes of Mr. Magoo couldn't evade. No amount of charm or whimsy could sidestep a broken door, a stolen register and a deceased cooler. 

The Spak Boys were down on their luck. The cooler and the register of a pizza shop are keystone items. Without them there's no way to keep the dough chilled or make money. Their systems were crippled and faced a crossroad. Tough it our or sell their soul to the devil. Or, reach out to a Pittsburgh message board, Never Tell Me The Odds.

How did people ask for help before the Internet? Did every business have a custom spotlight? Classifieds? Either way, once Ryan Spak wrote that note Pittsburgh took immediate action. You never mess with a Pittsburgher's Pizza Shop.

A thread on Reddit, a note in Pittsburgh Magazine and a post on I Heart PGH was enough to build a Spak Milita. They opened that Thursday and Friday to record sales.

Ryan Spak says, "It's been insanely busy around here. We've had a ton of exposure and new customers. The Thursday and Friday immediately following were our best sales to date which is just awe-inspiring. Everyone here feels loved (and sweaty) and I thank everyone who came through from the bottom of my heart."

Much like how every slice of pizza is just as important as the next, every little bit of support helps a business in a pinch. This wasn't lost on Ryan and the Spak crew.

It's hard to put words to the emotions but the outreach was humbling to put it lightly. From Dan and the crew at Commonwealth Press going way above and beyond to all the people that wrote articles and blog posts on the fly to everyone who took the time to share a Facebook status or grab a slice I just want to say that there were times that I got misty eyed just waking up to all the support.

A very, very special shoutout to all of the incredible employees/friends at the shop who worked themselves ragged to pull everything together. Without all of them we are nothing and every single person here went way above and beyond what they needed to do.

I've heard comments and rumbling questioning this initiative. "Why should we help out Spak? My car died, can I get some help?" Hey, that'd be great, but Spak never asked for handouts. They have spent the years they've been open giving back to the community. Because they know without a neighborhood to eat their pizza, their pizza may as well not exist.

"We see owning a business as more than just making money," Ryan Spak says. "I guess a good way of saying it is that on a grander scope every donation to a cause that promotes equality, compassion, empowerment and education is an investment in the future. Things take a long time to change in our world and the fruits of our efforts may not even be apparent in our lifetimes. I'm ok with that and think often of the countless people who came before that had the presence of mind to plant the seeds of rights and opportunities that we tend to take for granted now."

So what's next for a pizza shop thriving in the heart of Garfield?

"We have outgrown our current location and are planning big things for the future but all that takes time (or lots of cash flow ha) but stay tuned for amazing things to come."

And it wouldn't be an interview with a pizza shop owner without a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Reference. As a thanks, Ryan told me to tell you all:

Cowabunga dudes and dudettes, we love you all xo
— Ryan Spak