Virginian pizzaiolo spins his way to European competition

Ynot Italian pizza acrobat wins a trip to compete in London

Freestyle Acrobatics Winners left to right; 3rd, Corey Spivey; 1st, Michael Reyes-Casanova; 2nd, Matt Hickey

The United States Pizza Team (USPT), PMQ Pizza Magazine, Go Live Sports Cast and Colony Foods sponsored the Summer Acrobatic Trials at the 2019 New England Pizza Conference in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Tuesday, June 25th. Pizza athletes from around New England and beyond converged to vie for the grand prize of a trip London to compete in the European Pizza & Pasta show in November.

The field of competitors, both veterans and rookies, squared off in 4 events. All broadcast live on ESPN 3 by Go Live Sports Cast, the acrobats began with the Largest Dough Stretch, followed by the Fastest Pie Maker, Fastest Box Folder and the visually scintillating Freestyle Acrobatics. The competition saw veterans and rookies alike medaling several times.

Sarah Amato, Nonni’s Pizza

With a 1-point difference between 1st and 2nd in Freestyle Acrobatics, Michael Reyes-Casanova of Ynot Italian in Virginia Beach, Va. spun his way into the hearts of the audience and judges with his 3-minute routine full of over-the-shoulder rolls and double dough ball action. This routine earned him the grand prize to travel to London to compete on the international stage in November. Coming in 2nd place for his second competition in a row, was long-time competitor Matt Hickey of Caliente’s Pizza & Drafthouse in Allison Park, Pa. Rounding out the event at 3rd was first-time spinner Corey Spivey of Queen City Pizza Wagon in Springfield, Mo.

Matt Hickey, Caliente’s Pizza & Drafthouse

“The competition for this event gets harder every year.” says Reyes-Casanova. “We are all friends in the spinning community and learn from each other. If you find a good trick, it’s hard to keep it to yourself, but sometimes you need that extra ace up your sleeve.”

Reyes-Casanova also took 1st in Largest Dough Stretch. A close 2nd place by 1/16th of an inch was first time, and youngest competitor, Alex Levine of Caliente’s Pizza & Drafthouse. Third was grabbed by newcomer Sarah Amato of Nonni’s Pizza in Revere, Mass.

Winners Box Folding left to right; 1st, Sarah Amato; 2nd, George Philbrook; 3rd, Jon Rockwood; 4th, Andrew Chartier of Stachey’s Pizza in N. Andover, MA.

Fastest Pie Maker saw Matt Hickey take top honors by a staggering 15 second margin. Coming in 2nd was rookie Ben Wentzell of Hollis House of Pizza in Hollis, N.H., and 3rd went to Reyes-Casanova.

First and second places in Box Folding went to first-timers and coworkers, Sarah Amato and George Philbrook of Nonni’s Pizza respectively. Amato was the only first-time competitor to place in 2 events. Coming in 3rd place, only 4 seconds out from the top spot, was another new competitor, Jon Rockwood of Papa Gino’s in Dedham, Mass.

When asked about her experience, Amato said “It

Winners Largest Dough Stretch left to right; 2nd, Alex Levine; 1st, Micheal Reyes-Casanova; 3rd, Sarah Amato

was amazing. I practiced a lot. I didn’t expect to place in largest, but that was great. This has definitely ignited a spark in both George and I. We’re already looking up where to compete next.”

Other competitors included: Ernie Rozzi, Crazy Dough Pizza-BC, Boston, Mass.; Perry Bogacz, Caliente’s Pizza & Drafthouse, Allison Park, Pa.; and Andrew Chartier, Stachey’s Pizza, North Andover, Mass.

The U.S. Pizza Team competes all year round in various culinary and acrobatic trials across the country. Winners of

Winners Fastest Pie Maker left to right; 3rd, Michael Reyes-Casanova; 2nd, Ben Wentzell; 1st, Matt Hickey

each trial in the United States win a trip to compete on the international stage in various competitions around the world.  

PMQ Pizza Magazine, the business trade publication for the pizza restaurant industry, created the U.S. Pizza Team in 2000. The U.S. Pizza Team is sponsored by Galbani, Grain Craft, Ferrarelle, Real California Milk, Gordon Food Service, LaNova, Paradise Tomato Kitchens, MFG Tray, Molini Spigadoro, Burkett Restaurant Equipment and Supplies, Bag Solutions, Lillsun, Univex, Presto Foods and Sofo Foods.

For more information about this event or the U.S. Pizza Team, contact Brian Hernandez at 662-234-5481 x 129,, or visit



Brian Hernandez

Brian Hernandez