West Coast pizzaioli defend their region in fierce U.S. Pizza Cup battle on the harbor.
Galbani Professionale names 2020 Platinum USPT Member
Pizzaioli from up and down the West Coast and beyond converged on Oceanside, Calif., for the 2019 West Coast U.S. Pizza Cup, held on Dec. 9. Hosted by Dominic’s Italian Restaurant, Galbani and the U.S. Pizza Team (USPT), the best pizza chefs in the business brought their most original pies to vie for a chance to compete internationally.
The stakes were high in the sunny harbor town of Oceanside. With a grand prize to compete at the World Pizza Championships (WPC) in Parma, Italy on the line, first place also came with the added honor of being the 2020 Galbani Platinum Member, representing Galbani Professionale and the USPT in pizza events throughout the 2020 season. The competition was fierce, seeing numerous West Coast pizzaioli take a stand against a handful of Southwestern, Midwestern and East Coast competitors. In the end, the Golden State shone the brightest.
Taking top honors was Lars Smith of State of Mind in Los Altos Calif. Earning the mantle of 2020 Galbani Platinum Member for his winning pie, Smith said, “I still get nervous before every competition. I try to come prepared and not leave much prep for the last minute. That way I make less mistakes because of nerves.” Lars adds, “Pizza making is a profession for me. I want to make sure I honorably represent the industry, my hometown and my country while competing internationally.”
Smith wowed the judges with his Dreaming of Parma pie, inspired by his trip to the WPC in 2019. It highlights a 72-hour fermented dough, made with 100% organic California-grown and -milled wheat. Topped with fresh mozzarella, pork cheek braised in Lambrusco and seared mushrooms, this dreamy pie also showcased a Lambrusco pan sauce, arugula tossed in red wine vinegar, shaved Parmesan and shaved burgundy black truffle.
Leah Scurto of PizzaLeah, scheduled to open in Spring 2020 in Windsor, Calif., took 2nd place with her Old Gray Beard pizza. This pie spotlighted housemade Italian sausage, Calabrian chilies, Mike’s Hot Honey and candied orange peels, all paired with a local California IPA with a bitter citrus-flavor profile. Coming in a close 3rd by only .10 of a point was Dave Sommers, owner of Mad Mushroom in West Lafayette, Ind., with his Tre Mele (Apples 3-Ways) pizza. It featured dough made with only flour and apple cider, using the natural fermentation of the cider instead of yeast. This pie was canvassed with a hot pepper-infused olive oil, smoked white cheddar, guanciale, and thin slices of Pink Lady, Honey Crisp and Granny Smith apples. Sommers finished it off with fried apple peels, gorgonzola cheese and an apple cider reduction.
Additional competitors in the 2019 West Coast U.S. Pizza Cup included Alberto Russo, Flour House, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Ali Haider, 786°, Sun Valley/Los Angeles, Calif.; Daniel Saccone and Jon Garland, Saccone’s Pizza, Leander, Tex.; Gail Churinetz, Gail’s Pizza Parties, Germantown, Tenn.; George Taylor, Taylors’ Neighborhood Pizza & Sandwich Shoppe, Endwell, New York; Gianni Gallucci, GALLUCCI, Chicago, Ill.; Jeff Michelson, LouEddies Pizza, Skyforest, Calif.; Lenny Rago, Panino’s Pizza, Chicago; Mario Vollera, South End Pizza & Wine Bar, Venice Beach, Calif.; Michael Athanasopoulos, The Lamb & The Wolf, Rocklin, Calif.; Mychal Dourson, Paradise Pizza of Carlsbad, Carlsbad, Calif.; and Pasquale Di Maio, Vesuvio’s, Minneapolis, Minn.