Owner Scott Anthony shares his first trip to Italy to compete in the Pizza World Championships and experience the Italian pizza culture with the World Pizza Champions.
It Doesn’t Matter Whether You Win Or Lose, It’s How You Play The Game
Recently a group of American pizzaiolos stepped foot in the motherland of pizza, Italy. I headed to the 2016 Pizza World Championship held April 11-13 in Parma, Italy, as part of Tony Gemignani’s World Pizza Champions team.
I found myself making progress by going backwards in that valuable and delicious lessons were learned by looking to the origins of pizza and the Italian culture. As our group ate our way from Rome to Parma, we learned that the typical Italian meal consists of several courses: a starter; pasta; meat; cooked vegetables and dessert. Some say this ensures efficient digestion while enjoying every bite. This may sound extravagant but Italians prefer quality over quantity. Portions are less, taste is more. Meals are paired with regional wines adhering to the theory that if it grows together it goes together. The Italian culture is inspiring.
The team’s perspective of our jaunt was that this was an investment in ourselves and our businesses. Several culinary excursions were made that left us with an enhanced comprehension of products we use in our pizzerias and what to look for to give our customers an authentic Italian experience. We toured a Mozzarella Di Bufula plant and the Caputo Flour plant in Naples.
Traveling on to Parma the group toured Tuscany’s Trerose winery and Le 5 Stagioni flour plant in Padova. In Parma we visited a Production di Parmigiano Reggiano and the Fontana Prosciutto di Parma facility. Being in the midst of 120,000 Parma hams dry aging and wheels of cheese aged a minimum of 27 months was surreal. Absorbing the culinary culture of Italy in the company of 11 culinary experts from across the USA formed a bond between us. We were not competitors. We were comrades. The knowledge imparted to us made us realize that it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game. To be able to be part of an entity focused on perfecting their craft was more important than glory for oneself.
As the competition neared we shopped the local Italian markets for the finest ingredients, helping one another and encouraging one another to reach our full potential. Together we faced a record-edition year of the competition. Forty nations were represented; 700 participants would showcase their passion, competence and professionalism with thousands of their contemporaries visiting the Championship. The competition hosted 13 separate cooking and acrobatic categories including: Pizza in Pala; Pizza Triathlon; Pizza Classica; Pizza in Teglia; Pizza on the Peel competition; Gluten Free; Neapolitan STG and Pizza a Due competition. This event is extraordinarily competition driven. The pizzaiolos came to display their skills and gain tips from competitors. Two of our team participated in acrobatics, the others competed in one or more of the culinary competitions.
Gemignani became the first American winning top honors in the Pizza in Pala division, his 12th world pizza championship. He also was honored as the best pizzaiolo in North America and presented the Parmigiano Reggiano award. Chef Laura Meyer of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana received her due accolades, placing 10th out in Pizza Classica, one of the hardest and largest categories. The victory and spoils were for all the team to revel in.
The past year of preparing for this competition and being mentored by these experts has generated more name recognition and word of mouth than imagined. The media followed my path to Parma from day one.