Chicago’s Gino Rago wins “Best Pizza” in Southeast Pizza Trials
Chattanooga, TN. – The second annual Southeast Pizza Competition at Mellow Mushroom in Chattanooga, Tennessee, ended with an unprecedented tie-breaking “bake-off” between Traditional Category winner Gino Rago and Gourmet champion Jason Samosky. Rago took top honors with his “La Rochetta” pie.
The culinary and pizza-related competitions—Fastest Box Folding, Largest Dough Stretch, and Fastest Pie-Making—ended Dec. 8 as 14 pizzaioli from around the nation vied for the grand prize: a free trip to Parma, Italy, to compete with the Groupon U.S. Pizza Team at the 2016 World Pizza Championship. Rago won the grand prize—and the trip—with his “La Rochetta,” a racquet-shaped pizza featuring broccolini, mushrooms, asparagus, corn, hickory-smoked bacon, kale chips and a blend of mozzarella and gouda with Aurora pizza sauce. “This feels great,” said the owner and founder of Chicago’s Panino’s Pizzeria. “This is a wonderful experience being with the U.S. Pizza Team. It enhances my experience ten-fold.”
The event yielded innovative pizzas in both categories. Second place in the Gourmet category was a tie between Greg Spaulding of Middle Fork Kitchen Bar in Lexington, Kentucky and Bradley Corbin of Sloopy’s Pizza in Lakeside, Ohio. Third place honors went to Chris Mallon of Nashville. Dave Sommers of Mad Mushroom in West Lafayette, Indiana, took second place in Traditional, followed by Frank Baird of Franco’s Pizza in Chardon, Ohio.
Other competitors in the culinary categories included David Tieman, Five Points Pizza, Nashville; Lenny Rago, Via Pizzeria 1-2-3, Chicago; Michael Reyes-Casanova, Five Points Pizza; Melina Schuler, Middle Fork Kitchen Bar; Alena Tikhova, Dodo Pizza, Oxford, Mississippi.; Brian Scott, Community Pie, Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Stan Miller, Piezon’s World Famous Pizza, Fulton, Mississippi.
The Bake-off was triggered after Rago won in Traditional with his Chi-Town Deep Dish Pizza Pie. The four judges had a tough time selecting a winner in Gourmet, but after a lengthy deliberation, Valley City, Ohio’s Jason Samosky, owner of Samosky’s Homestyle Pizzeria, won the Gourmet division with a pie called “La Pizza Inverno.” Samosky’s creation was loaded with seasonal winter ingredients such as butternut squash and apples. “It was an awesome competition,” Samosky said. “Even better pizzas.”
In the Bake-off round, Rago and Samosky were given optional secret ingredients provided by sponsors, including a variety of cheeses and fresh produce, and one mandatory ingredient—the chef’s choice of any of five varieties of bacon.
Other competitors in the culinary categories included David Tieman, Five Points Pizza, Nashville; Lenny Rago, Via Pizzeria 1-2-3, Chicago; Michael Reyes-Casanova, Five Points Pizza; Melina Schuler, Middle Fork Kitchen Bar; Alena Tikhova, Dodo Pizza, Oxford, Mississippi; Brian Scott, Community Pie, Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Stan Miller, Piezon’s World Famous Pizza, Fulton, Mississippi.
Additional event results:
Fastest Box Folding
Winner—Kathryn Scott—Community Pie
2nd Place—Stan Miller
3rd Place—Dave Sommers
Fastest Dough Stretch
2nd Place–Stan Miller
3rd Place—Michael Reyes-Casanova
Largest Dough Stretch
2nd Place—Brian Scott
3rd Place—Abby Robbins—Mellow Mushroom –Chattanooga
The World Pizza Championships attracts hundreds of pizza chefs from more than 30 countries every year. They compete in a range of categories, including: classic pizza, pizza in the pan, pizza on the peel, Neapolitan, gluten-free, pizza-for-two (made by two chefs), individual freestyle acrobatics, largest dough stretch and fastest pie maker. The 2015 Groupon U.S. Pizza Team was comprised of four acrobatic competitors and 16 culinary competitors.
The team regularly competes in events across the U.S. and internationally. The squad won second place in Individual Free Style in 2014 and 2015, and first place in the 2011 Team Acrobatics event at the World Pizza Championships in Italy.
The Southeast Pizza Trials were proudly sponsored by Graincraft, U.S. Foods and Dixie Produce.
PMQ Pizza Magazine, the business trade publication for the pizza restaurant industry, created the Groupon U.S. Pizza Team in 2000. The team is sponsored by Grain Craft, California Milk Advisory Board, Gordon Food Service, Westrock, Sofo Foods, LaNova, Paradise Tomato Kitchens, Bag Solutions, Fontanini Meats, Lillsun, Marsal and Sons, Univex, PizzaInsurance.com and Presto Foods.
For more information, contact Brian Hernandez at 662-234-5481 x129 or by email @ email@example.com.