3 Time Pizza Champ Claims a 4th Title in Chicago at Panino’s Midwest Culinary and Acrobatic Trials!

Michael LaMarca's 1st place Fig-It About It Pie
Michael LaMarca’s 1st place Fig-It About It Pie
Haider Ali's 2nd place Maharaja Pie
Haider Ali’s 2nd place Maharaja Pie

Panino’s Pizza in Evanston, IL held the Groupon U.S. Pizza Team’s Midwest Culinary and Acrobatic Trials Monday, June 13th. This event drew pizzaiolos and pizza athletes from around the country to compete for the title of Best in the Midwest, a spot on the Groupon U.S. Pizza Team and a grand prize of a trip to Italy to compete in the World Pizza Championships in 2017.

Leonardo Giordano's 3rd place tequila Sunset Pie
Leonardo Giordano’s 3rd place Tequila Sunset Pie

Taking first place for the 4th time in his career, Michael LaMarca of Master Pizza in Cleveland, OH competed with his Fig-It-About It pie.  A Smoked EVOO topped with Sea Salt, Cracked Black Pepper and Parmigiana Reggiani, Buffalo Mozzarella cheese, honey cured smoked bacon, a touch of blue cheese blended with a fig preserve, honey goat chèvre, Prosciutto di Parma, Black Modena Pearls and served with a port wine. Second place went to Haider Ali of 786 Degrees in Sunland CA with his Maharaja pie, served on a gold platter, Turkish Haideri sauce, 72 hour marinated Adana & Doner Kabob, grilled onions, mozzarella, olive oil & Himalayan salt topped with fresh cucumber and 24 karat gold flakes. Rounding out the top 3 was Leonardo Giordano from Mona Lisa Pizza in Staten Island, NY. He presented the judges with his Tequila Sunset Pizza. A pie in the shape of the sun featuring lobster meat sauteed in butter, shallots and tequila, topped with cherry tomatoes, avocados, mango and lime zest all atop burrata cheese and served with Tequila Sunsets to drink.

In the athletics events, Giovanni Labatte of Bricks Wood-Fired Pizza Cafe in Wheaton, IL took first place in the fastest dough stretch category, followed by Rick Wheeler of Mad Mushroom in Lafayette, IN, and Michael Reyes-Casanova of YNot Pizza in Virginia Beach, VA in second and third respectively.

The first place medal for largest dough stretch went to Michael Reyes-Casanova, with second and third going to  Rick Wheeler and Jason Samosky of Samosky’s Homestyle Pizzeria in Valley City, OH.

Other competitors for the day were: Dave Sommers (Mad Mushroom, IN); Mike Russo (Romeo’s Pizza, OH); Tony Scalia and Kevin Reid (Two Bro’s Pizza, OH); Demarco Jenkins (D’Marco’s Pizza, TX); Peter Anderson (Gelsosomo’s, IN); Shawn Scoyni and John Zozzaro (The Downtown Cafe, NY); Cody Mitchell (Pizza Tree, MI)

The event was organized by Groupon U.S. Pizza Team members Gino and Lenny Rago and Bruno Brunetti, all from Panino’s Pizza in the Chicago Area. This event was sponsored by Via Pizzeria 1-2-3, Bib’s BBQ Sauce, Galbani Cheese, Pivetti Flour, Greco and Sons, Margherita, Pizza-Savor, Marra Forni, Sogni Toscano and Valli Produce.


Giovanni Labbate's 4th place Honey Sriracha Chicken Pie
Giovanni Labbate’s 4th place Honey Sriracha Chicken Pie
Brian Hernandez

Brian Hernandez