This year's edition of Le Strade Della Mozzarella was yet another chance to celebrate Italy's finest and most loved ingredients at Keste Pizza e Vino in downtown New York at the two day event held at the end of June.
Pizza lovers united in discussions, tastings and celebrations during a delicious line-up of presentations as the finest pizzaoli from both the US and Italy put Neapolitan pizza in the spotlight.
Homegrown talent, pizzaiola Giorgia Caporuscio was joined by fellow New Yorker Antony Mangieri, while Toni Gemignani flew in from San Francicso, and Carlo Sammarco and Enzo Coccia arrived from the home of pizza, Naples to join a team of food and wine experts.
While the pizzaioli got to work highlighting their quest for pizza perfection, from researching the perfect crust to the ultimate toppings, they also shared their personal stories on how they fell in love with the iconic Italian favourite, Neapolitan pizza.
Here's what they had to say:
Giorgia, the 28 year old chef and owner of Kesté Pizza & Vino opened the event with her version of a "Cetara" pizza: Stracciatella of bufala, zucchini sautéed with Cetara anchovies, basil and grated lemon peel once out of the oven.
Dough that rises for 48 hours at room temperature is a living element that "the hands must feel and understand" Giorgia explained to presenter Guido Barendson, before revealing that her love of pizza took off when she first arrived in the USA to perfect her English and spend some time with pizza maker father Roberto. She was so struck by the pizza bug that she hasn't stopped kneading, topping and baking since.
Today, she can also be found promoting Neapolitan pizza with the Pizza Accademy Foundation, a school that offers professional and amateur courses to great success.
Tony Gemignani from Tony's Neopolitan pizza in San Francisco prepared a classic pizza for the occasion with mozzarella, red tomatoes, fresh basil, provolone and crystallized basil.
The Tuscan revealed that his passion for pizza was born during his honeymoon in Naples, when he first tasted a real Neapolitan pizza: "I never stopped preparing pizza - but I also got to know all the other types, from Romana to focaccia. The important thing is to make people understand the differences and appreciate their qualities" he explained. Something he practices in writing books, he has already published three, and publishing videos on a popular youtube channel.
Meanwhile, piazziolo Carlo Sammarco presented pizza "Nerano" - a white pizza with a fondue of provolone cheese and zucchini finished with fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Carlo from Aversa and Carlo Sammarco 2.0 pizzeria in Naples explained how his life long interest in creating the pefect light and airy pizza crust was born: "I grew up in the family pizzeria and I always noticed that the crusts stayed on the plate, I asked myself questions and I studied baking and leavening for three years until I managed to create a high and fragrant crust that was consistent but not chewy; I am convinced that to make a good pizza it takes experience, passion, study and even to work with humility" he reflected.
The fourth pizza-session saw pizza maker Antony Mangieri from "Una Pizza Napoletana" on Lower East Side showcase his pizza: "Apollonia".
Dedicated to his daughter, from his marriage to his Neopolitan wife who shares his passion for pizza, the Apollonia captured a fusion of American and Neapolitan flavors. The base made with mother dough and long leavening time was topped with mozzarella, salami, an egg and pepper sauce capturing the American taste for salami on pizza.
The grand finale was entrusted to Enzo Coccia from Pizzeria la Notizia in Naples who prepared a selection of his most loved pizzas: a marinara with cheese, a margherita calzone and a white pizza with yellow and red tomatoes.
Moderator Luciano Pignataro compared Coccia to Christopher Columbus for the revolution that started the pizza world, in Naples in 1994.
"It was then when making pizza in Naples marked a big ' step - he said - that I started, leaving the family pizzeria to think about quality, good ingredients, about long leavening dough managed with skill by the pizza chef when humidity and temperature change too." Since then his project has never strayed from his quality objective highlighted in his three pizzerias on the same street.
Naturally, a toast with prosecco concluded the pizza-session marking the celebrations complete for another year.
These are tough times for chefs and restaurant professionals around the world, but there has never been a better time to seek advice and help around a number of topics affecting hospitality workers. Here's a round-up of some of the most useful resources for chefs.