Every Pizza I Judged at the 2014 International Pizza Expo


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Here you have it, every single pizza I judged at the 2014 International Pizza Expo. The International Pizza Chanllenge has several categories: Traditional, Non-Traditional, American Pan, Gluten Free and Blind Box. This year I judged Non-Traditional, American Pan and Blind Box (an Iron Chef-type challenge where pizzaioli compete using their own dough and surprise ingredients).

Every compeditor has to bring their dough and toppings to the event, get them through airport security, keep them alive in the hotel room and prepare the pizza using an unfamiliar oven in a gigantic convention center. No easy task. 

10 Amazing Things I Saw At Pizza Expo

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1. A company selling bags of coal! Pizza was introduced to the USA at  coal-burning bakeries in the Northeast. After all, anthracite coal comes mostly from Northeastern Pennsylvania, so it only makes sense that cities like New York and New Haven still have a bunch in use (and even more laying dormant). But coal-fired pizza ovens died out as natural gas became the easier, less expensive alternative. Now companies like Grimaldi’s, Tommy’s Coal FiredAnthony’s Coal Fired and a bunch more are bringing it back. Gotto get that rock! 

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2. Lots of dough acrobatics. Dough needeth not need be airborne to make a good pizza, but it really is hard to look away when someone’s doing crazy tricks with it. These guys do crazy choreographed routines with dough that contains extra salt so it won’t rip. 

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3. The World’s First Breathing Pizza Box! A packaging company from India may have solved the problem of crust soggification - you know, that tubby gummy crust you get from delivery pizza. The VENTiT box utilizes indirect venting to allow humid air to escape while containing valuable dry heat. They had all sorts of cool demonstrations and even a FOG MACHINE that pushed smoke through the logo on their booth. Pretty sweet. 

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4. Hardcore culinary competitions! I’ve been fortunate enough to judge culinary competitions at Pizza Expo since I started going in 2007. Here’s a shot of my fellow judges checking out one of the many many pizzas we had the honor of eating. That’s Jonathan Goldsmith (Spacca Napoli in Chicago), Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann (American Institute of Baking), Domenico Crolla (Bella Napoli in Glasgow, Scotland) and Theo Kalogeracos (Little Caesars in Perth, Australia - NOT the American franchise). Some of these pizzas were excellent, some were vile. 

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5. Amazing pants! They must shop at the same place. 

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6. A live artist painting a classic pizza box scene! We’ve already covered my love of pizza box art, but I’ve never witness its creation in action! This artist was on-site at the RockTenn booth (they make 65% of all pizza boxes in the USA) all three days of the event painting a classic cafe scene. I patiently await the day I see this image on a pizza box.

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7. Merchants of nightmares! Seriously frightening pizza costumes. There were several of these booths at the event and they were clearly separated to avoid turf wars. Have fun sleeping tonight!

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8. Pizza Stadium! The final culinary showdown pits the winners of all four pizza competitions (Traditional, Non-Traditional, American Pan and Italian) for an epic battle. The secret ingredients are revealed and each pizzaiolo had 20 minutes to prove they’re the best. I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty damn exciting. 

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9. Beautiful pizza boxes and they’re all free for the taking!!! OK, this one might only be fun for me but I had to include it. After all, I have written a book about pizza box art and currently hold the Guinness World Record for Largest Collection of Pizza Boxes. To keep a collection of top-notch specimens, you have to go to the source. These companies trash all their display boxes so all I have to do is wait until the show is over before I sack all the box companies on the floor. There’s a FedEd center in the convention center, so I just wrap them and ship them back to Brooklyn. I’ll just have to wait 7-10 business days before I get to examine the loot!

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10. A dude spinning a baby pool! Justin Wadstein won this year’s dough acrobatic competition, thanks in no small part to his ability to spin just about anything

What happens when a high school group from St Louis brings their instruments aboard the pizza tour bus? I make them play for their food!

I did an interview with a cool new site called Pizza Life, run by my friend Gianluca Rottura. He’s a serious pizza lover and wine aficionado.  He has a killer wine store in NYC and a book about wine called Wine Made Easy. I’m super excited about this interview because it reveals some deep secrets, such as which concert I went to after eating a great slice of Sicilian pizza last summer. ENJOY!

Pizza Box Gallery Show Hits Brooklyn This THURSDAY


Steph Mantis built these rad custom frames to house beautiful pizza boxes!

The art world will never be the same after this epic gallery show of amazing pizza boxes hits the scene this Thursday at the Melville House Gallery in DUMBO. About a dozen boxes will be on display all month long, most of which are featured in Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box, the acclaimed new book about the history, art and science of pizza boxes. 

            The Art of the Pizza Box an exhibit curated by Scott Wiener
            Opening party Thursday, March 6, 6:30 PM
            Melville House Gallery
            154 Plymouth St, Brooklyn
            The show will be up through the end of March!

*Buy the book on 
Amazon 
*Buy a signed copy from McNally Jackson 
*See the list of Tour Dates

Tomato Tasting at Razza, Jersey City

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I was so completely delighted to attend a tomato tasting at Razza Pizza Artigianale in lovely Jersey City a few weeks ago! The owners, Dan and Fred, are solid dudes and they truly care about their goodies — enough to invite a bunch of folks over to taste 11 different canned tomato products. 

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Everybody got a super-detailed scoring sheet, complete with grading rubric and helpful hints. All the cans were covered so we couldn’t see labels. Dan mashed all the can’s contents with an emersion blender and that was that.  

He even put his own sauce into one of the cans to see how it held up against the rest. The results were pretty consistent with tomato tastings I’ve done before (2010 part 1, 2010 part 2, 2013) so that was comforting!

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Cameo by Pizza A Casa's Mark Bello as Dan unveils the results!

The Results
1. Stanislaus Alta Cucina - 3.6 (a tomato from central CA, usually wins)
2. Ciao - 3.5 (Italian tomato found on the pies at Keste and Don Antonio in NYC, among others)
3. DiNapoli - 3.4 (lovely California tomatoes)
4. Escalon 6 in 1 - 3.28 (a crushed tomato product on the sweet side)
5. DaniCoop San Marzano DOP - 3.26 (Very good DOP tomato)
6. Razza’s Pizza Sauce - 3.23 (I LOVE that Dan included this!)
7. Jersey Fresh - 3.18 (another crushed product, I dig it)
8. Muir Glen - 3.1 (California organic product)
9. Cento San Marzano DOP - 2.76 (go-to supermarket availability)
10. Bianco DiNapoli - 2.1 (I love these, surprised the came in so low)
11. Teo - 2.04 (private label tomato from Chef’s Warehouse)

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Tastings like this are important because the crop changes every year. If you’re struggling with your sauce, start by finding a tomato you like. The better the base, the less you have to do. Most NYC pizzerias use the Stanislaus Alta Cucina tomato, but that’s not available in stores unless you’re a restaurant. Good comparable tomatoes are the Trader Joe’s whole peeled variety (I used them on my pizza last night!), which you can get either salted or unsalted.

Big thanks to Dan and Fred and everyone over at Razza for having us! Best part after tasting all those tomatoes was having their delicious pizza! They’re hardcore about dough and natural fermentation, so DO NOT skip the bread when you go to Razza. EAT EVERYTHING YOU CAN!

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