I had a great time at the South Philly Pizza Olympics in 2012, but the pies were less than ideal because of the minutes and hours spent sweating in cardboard, losing not only the oven heat but the crisp texture that makes an ideal crust. The easy winner of that event was Nomad Pizza, largely because they were the only ones baking pies on site (from the wood-fired Neapolitan oven on a mobile pizza truck).
I was excited to attend the "Pizza Palooza" event at the MGM Hotel/Casino in National Harbor MD (on the banks above the Potomac, minutes outside of Washington DC), mostly because of the celebrity pizzaioli in the lineup. Tickets, with taxes and fees, came to about $115 for this all you can eat, all you can drink event.
|View of Potomac from MGM rooftop deck|
|John Arena, Scott Wiener, Pizza Quixote|
- Giulio Andriani - The Local Pizzaiolo (Atlanta)
- Vincent Rotolo - Evel Pie (Las Vegas)
- Paulie Gee - Paulie G's (several locations)
- Nino Coniglio - Willliamsburg Pizza
- Robert Caporuscio - Keste Pizza, Don Antonio (NYC)
- Joseph Englese - MGM Hotel (National Harbor MD)
- John Arena - Metro Pizza (Las Vegas)
- Gino Rago - Panino's Pizza (Chicago)
|Some of the Palooza chefs and celebs|
|John Arena of Metro Pizza at his Marra Forni oven|
I imagine that the pie makers had to adjust to the ovens, though. While indeed some were offering the kind of Neapolitan pies that cook in 90 seconds and for which these ovens were designed, there were also some New York style pies, a thick Sicilian, a Chicago deep-dish, and a gluten-free Detroit pie.
|John Arena, Michael LaMarca (PMQ Magazine), Scott Wiener|
|Giulio Adriani (formerly of Forcella)|
|Lenny Rago, Panino's Pizza|
|Paulie G's "Barry White"|
|Paulie G's Hellboy|
|Giulio Adriani and Robert Caporuscio|
|Panino's Chicago style deep dish|
|Vincent Rotolo, Evel Pie|
|Evel Pie's gluten-free Detroit style pizza|
|Simple canned Italian tomatoes|
|Scott applies the sauce|
This Sicilian style pie from Metro pizza stands right up there with the other jaw-dropping thick pan pies I've had recently: Detroit pizza from Norma's Pizza; sesame-crusted rectangles from Rize; Detroit pizza at Via 313; Old Forge style at Elio G's; and the elusive Detroit/Old Forge hybrid from James Oley at Binge House Pizza.
|Gino Rago, Panino's Pizza|