The U.S. Pizza Team jumped back into the deep end of pizza competitions with a trip to the World Pizza Championships, held April 5-7 in Parma, Italy.
With a squad of 12 eager pizzaioli, the USPT tested its pizza prowess in categories including Pizza Classica, Pizza in Teglia, Pizza in Pala, Pizza Senza Glutine (Gluten-Free), Pizza a Due (pizza made by 2 pizzaioli), and STG, as well as Largest Dough Stretch, Fastest Pie Maker and the visually exhilarating Freestyle Acrobatics.
Taking top culinary honors for the USPT were Lars and Cristina Aceves Smith, a pizza power couple from State of Mind Public House & Pizzeria in Los Altos, Calif. Lars won the 2019 Galbani Cup but was delayed in his victory tour and right to defend his title internationally due to COVID-19. Now that the world is opening back up and competitions are beginning anew, Smith burst out of the gate, taking home 5th in the world out of more than 700 pizza competitors for his Pizza in Pala entry, the Zucchine e Burrata. This rectangular piece of pizza art embodied all the characteristics of a great pizza on the peel: light, airy, well-constructed, not too busy, and most importantly, delicious!
Lars said he was “absolutely stunned” by his top 5 finish. “I knew I made a great pizza, but it is such a tough group of competitors that I would have been excited being in the top 20. It was an unforgettable experience, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.”
The WPC was Cristina’s first international competition abroad, and she made the most of it. She took home the highest score among competitors for her country of origin, Mexico, for her Pizza Classica entry, the Tonno e Cipolla.
Rounding out the culinary honors for the USPT was Team Captain Michael LaMarca of Master Pizza in Cleveland, Ohio. LaMarca achieved the highest score from the U.S. for the Detroit, Parma Style! pie, his Pizza in Teglia entry. This fluffy pillow of dough held upon its crown a sweet fig jam base, fried pork guanciale, a mozzarella/scamorza cheese blend, arugula, goat cheese, Prosciutto, and balsamic pearls of perfection.
USPT Acrobats Jamie Culliton and McKenna Carney of The Nona Slice House in Safety Harbor, Fla., competed in the fan favorite Freestyle Acrobatics, with Culliton, a multiple time World Champion spinner, taking 5th place in overall, while Carney placed in the top 10 in the world in her debut appearance at the games. Dave Sommers of Mad Mushroom in West Lafayette, Ind., left the competition floor with the highest scores for the U.S. in both the Fastest and Largest Dough Stretches.
Other competing USPT members included Leah Scurto, PizzaLeah, Windsor, Calif.; Sean Dempsey and David Solum of Danger von Dempsey’s Pizza & Brewhäus, Aberdeen, S.D.; James Terwilliger, The Pizza Consultant, San Diego, Calif.; Tore Trupiano, Mangia e Bevi, Oceanside, Calif.; and Giovanni Labbate, Tievoli Pizza Bar, Palatine, Ill.