2024 World Pizza Championships

Seven members of the U.S. Pizza Team (USPT) represented American pizzaioli with pride and honor in the 31st edition of the World Pizza Championship, held in Parma, Italy, on April 9-11.

Trupiano steps up to represent the team in Gluten Free. Looks like a real pizza, dunnit?!

As culinary competitions in the pizza industry go, this is the big one, and USPT members shone once again on the international stage. Tore Trupiano, owner of Mangia e Beve in Oceanside, California, competed in the Classica, Pizza Due and Gluten-Free categories. Trupiano admitted that the pressure can be intense.

“I think there’s so much that has to come together,” he said. “I understand that some of the best pizza makers in the world are here for this. But just because you’re a great pizza maker doesn’t mean that you’re a great speaker. It doesn’t mean you do well in front of crowds. It doesn’t mean you do well with cameras facing you all the time.”

Trupiano added, “There’s so much going on. You have to completely clear that out of your head. You just have to know that you’re there to make the best pizza you can make.”

Tholen carefully watching his pie. It takes 90 seconds to cook, but only one second to burn.

Mike Tholen, also of Mangia e Beve, competed in the Pizza Due contest alongside Trupiano and flew solo in the particularly challenging STG Napoletana category. “It feels pretty amazing,” he said. “It was somewhat terrifying to do STG amongst a lot of [Italian] locals, and, being an American, it was kind of an against-the-odds type situation, but I had so much support around me. Everyone was telling me, ‘Just do what you normally do. Just do your thing.’ That’s pretty much what I did. I just put my head down and didn’t look up. And it came out great. I’m super-happy with it. I felt like a rock star being up there.”

Culliton and Carney: Special delivery for the Due Judges

Jamie Culliton and McKenna Carney of The Nona Slice House in Safety Harbor, Florida, joined the action in the Classica, Pizza Due and Pizza in Teglia competitions as well as the Freestyle Acrobatics category. Culliton, the USPT athletic director and multiple-time world champion dough spinner, made it to the finals and placed 5th overall against the world’s best pizza acrobats.

Meanwhile, 2023 Galbani Cup Champion Niles Peacock of Niles Peacock Kitchen and Bar in Edmonds, Washington, showed off his culinary chops in the Classica, Pizza in Pala and Pizza in Teglia divisions.

Recchia Pizza Powers….ACTIVATE!

Vitangelo Recchia, owner of Bella Napoli Pizzeria & Restaurant in Port Charlotte, Florida, competed for the USPT in the most categories: Classica, Pizza in Pala, Pizza in Teglia and Pizza Due. He finished as the highest-scoring competitor from the United States.

USPT team captain Michael LaMarca of Master Pizza partnered with Recchia in the Pizza Due category and also excelled in the Classica and Pizza In Teglia contests. LaMarca is a veteran competitor, both in Parma and in other events around the U.S. and globally. But there’s nothing like the World Pizza Championship, he said. “This is where everyone comes, and there isn’t a cash prize. It’s all about prestige. It’s excitement, it’s nerve-racking, but it’s also exhilarating when you’re up there and everyone’s watching you and all the cameras are on you. It offers a whole spectrum of emotions and feelings.

Arrrrriiiiivin’…on a jet plane. Stretching out this largest thing again.

Dave Sommers, owner of Mad Mushroom in West Lafayette, Indiana, also has plenty of competition experience. “The nerves never go away,” said Sommers, who competed in the Classica category and the skills games, such as Largest Dough Stretch and Fastest Pizza Maker. It’s all about “making sure you can focus on the task of hand,” he added. “You’re there to make the pizza to the best of your ability. Just make sure you’ve got yourself ready…it becomes a lot different than tossing dough around on normal Friday nights. This is a special one that you’ve got to put all the extra thought [into] because you’ve gotta get your nerves down.”


Picture of Brian Hernandez

Brian Hernandez