September 24, 2013 |

International Pizza Expo 2014 Keynote Speakers Announced

By Bill Oakley

Las Vegas Convention Center March 24 – 27, 2014 I’ve got some exciting news to share with you regarding next year’s International Pizza Expo®, which is slated for March 24 – 27 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I’m pleased to announce we’ve lined up three fantastic restaurant and television personalities to jump-start your day and provide you with motivation and insight. This year our featured keynote speakers will be Donatella Arpaia, who is best known for her recurring role as judge on the Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef” and “Iron Chef America”; and celebrity pizzeria owners Sal Basile and Francis Garcia, who own five Artichoke Pizzerias in New York City.

Restaurateur, author, and television personality Donatella Arpaia has become an influential woman in the world of food, business, and entertaining. Her background includes an education from the French Culinary Institute and Italian Culinary Academy, but her passion for classic Neapolitan pizza began long before that. She grew up in a family of restaurateurs: Both her father and brother have owned and operated several Long Island and New York City establishments.

While Donatella was persuaded to graduate from law school, being an attorney wasn’t for her. Four months in, Donatella convinced her family that food was her passion, and she left and opened her first New York City restaurant: Bellini. It’s been restaurants and entertaining ever since, with a cookbook, Donatella Cooks: Simple Food Made Glamorous, signature food and home products offered on the Home Shopping Network, and celebrity appearances on various networks among her high-profile endeavors.

Donatella is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to restaurant start-ups, having opened eight in New York City and one in Miami. For the most part, her menus have featured upscale renditions of Italian regional cuisines. But it was Arpaia’s most recent restaurant — given her own first name, Donatella, and described by The New York Times as a “glittery pizza parlor” — that caught our attention. Her pizzeria features a Neapolitan-style menu reflecting her father’s native region of Italy, and she’ll tell you about her journey back to her roots in this kick-off keynote to Pizza Expo 2014.

Many have heard the call, but only two have been chosen — at least by a national network — to travel the U.S. in search of the best and most unusual pizzas. Cousins Sal Basile and Francis Garcia, who grew up in the family’s Staten Island restaurant, were selected to do just that by the Cooking Channel, resulting in the “Pizza Cuz” series that began airing back in May.

Their travels have led them to pizzerias in New York, New England, Detroit and other locations where they’ve tasted everything from a classic New York-style pizza to the unimaginable. Sal and Francis have their own signature pie, the Artichoke, that has created a cult following. The duo bring to their Pizza Expo appearance an undeniable passion for pizza, their knowledge of the craft as pizzaioli and tales of their pie-searching travels.

For more information on Pizza Expo, call 800-489-8324, or visit

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