I was walking through the exhibition area when Francesco Marra motioned to me. Francesco is the CEO of Marra Forni pizza ovens. He wanted to discuss his pizza ovens with me. I asked if I could record the interview and he was enthusiastic about sharing his story.
He explained that he started the company seven years ago with his brother. At first the company was in a small 3,000 foot space. They wanted to not only offer quality pizza ovens but were interested in being a “one stop shop” for every pizza business. The rotator deck oven is able to cook 200-250 pizzas in one hour. The unique aspect of this particular oven is the programmable touch screen. The screen has an automatic turn on and turn off. You can set the oven to be cranked up by the time you get to the store to open your pizzeria. There is a very special insulation used in the ovens which allow them to cook their pizza at 900 degree F.
All of the raw material for the ovens is imported from Italy. The company assembles all of the ovens in the United States.
The oven line includes Neapolitan style ovens, rotating deck ovens and electric ovens. They offer a wide variety of pizza tools, pizza ovens, both wood fired and electric. They also do consulting. He stressed that the company is very customer service oriented.
“If you succeed, we succeed…” Francesco Marra
He is very interested in all aspects of the pizza business. He went on to explain that Marra Forni is not just an oven company. The company wants to help in all aspects of the pizza business. From choosing the correct oven to helping you be a pizza success.
I was extremely lucky to land this interview with Paulie Gee. After stalking him for 2 days at Pizza Expo, I was excited to be able to discuss pizza, and to discover his favorite pizzerias and how he started in the pizza business.
Albert Grande and Paulie Gee
The interview started badly. I called him a legend of pizza as well as a pizzaiolo. He stopped me dead in my tracks by proclaiming he was no legend, just a guy who makes pizza. And he said there are no pizzaiolo at Paulie Gee’s, just pizza guys.
After we got over that bump, the interview went well. Paulie Gee was open about how he happened to get into the pizza business. After working in the IT profession for 30 years he decided to move on and follow his dream. Although he loved to cook, he did not see himself opening a restaurant. He knew it had to be pizza. So he formulated a plan.
He started to make pizza at home and worked at perfecting his craft. He used Peter Reinhart’s book: American Pie My Search for the Perfect Pizza as a model. He worked on his pizza dough recipe and kept working on it. He experimented with different dough recipes until he had it the way he wanted it.
Paulie Gee on the love of pizza!
His goal was not to be a pizza hobbyist. Rather he knew all along he wanted to get into the pizza business. He made pizza for friends, family, and bloggers. He fed them pizza, got them drunk, and they spread the word. He continued to make pizza and soon many people were discussing Paulie Gee’s great pizza..
His vision of Paulie Gee’s was not so much to open just another pizzeria. He wanted his place to be an experience. He explained he he wanted Paulie Gee’s to look like the “Little Rascals” opened up a pizzeria. He wanted his place to be totally different. He wanted a certain amount of mystery as well as a comfortable. All along the way he sought out assistance from established pizza makers who shared his vision. Paulie Gee is thankful to all the assistance he has received and he acknowledges the assistance from others along the way.
Paulie does not allow any of his employees to wear Paulie Gee logos or hats. Rather he encourages his staff to wear t-shirts and hats from other pizzerias. Celebrating pizza is one of Paulie’s goals. The pizzas are non traditional melding various flavors such as sweet and savory with a hint of hotness.
Albert Grande Interviews Paulie Gee
He is also very supportive of anyone else who wants to follow the path of having their own pizzeria. He embodies the heart and soul of pizza. Because as you may know pizza is more than just water, salt yeast and flour. Magic happens when you make pizza. Paulie Gee wants to spread that magic around.
In the following interview Paulie talks about his favorite pizzas in New York. He speaks about some of the pizza makers who influenced him. He closes out by talking about what it takes to follow one’s dreams. Here’s the interview:
You can listen to the audio of this interview and
download a copy if you wish below:
Albert: Albert Grande here from pizzatherapy.com legends pizza.com/blog I have cornered my old friend Tim Huff master baker at General Mills, and I wanted you to talk a little bit about the hydration of flour and in particular Pizza Dough Hydration. That’s something that’s come up a lot in my video, I did a previous interview with you. Could you address that Tim?
Tim Huff: You bet. When it comes hydration it’s the amount of water that goes into formulation and when we look at that we compare that to flour weight so it’s in Baker’s percent
In these days I see a significant influence from the artisan baking industry we’re used to higher hydration doughs and so a lot of the folks that are baking Neapolitan style pizzas these days I see ranges from 60 may be close to 70% hydration so that be 60 to 70 pounds of water to hundred pounds of flour.
If you’re talking kind of traditional New York style crust a lot of the folks I talked to they may be around 55% absorption but I think they’re leaving money on the table by not hydrating the high gluten flours to the extent they could be. Pushing up to 60% is certainly very doable.
In a lot of ways, I think it actually makes the crust bake out better. The more you hydrate a dough the softer that dough is. It actually expands quicker in the oven and bakes more efficiently. So a lot of the folks that have a soggy dough or say hey I have a gum line I can’t figure it out. I keep taking away water and keeps getting worse and that’s why it’s getting worse cause as her take water away it makes the dough stiffer, the dough doesn’t expand when it hits the oven.
If a dough has higher hydration, it’s a little bit looser it pops quicker on the deck when you put it in the oven actually bakes more efficiently so pushing the hydration on those is something I think a lot of pizza operators could do.
Albert: So I’ve also heard Tim that using a higher hydration will make your pizza crisper? Is that true?
Tim Huff: Exactly and that’s the reason that it is crisper because it is baking more efficiently and it seems counterintuitive if I add more moisture to something how could it be crisper? The reason it is, is because it’s opening up the cell structure of that dough as it hits the oven it expands quicker when you have that expansion you’re essentially developing more little air cells, the bubbles there. It’s easier to bake something that’s airier versus baking something that’s dense.
And so it bakes more efficiently therefore gives it a crisper crust
Albert: Okay great and what are some of the flours that you recommend from General Mills
Tim Huff: Sure sure I mean when I think of the quintessential New York style pizza I think of All Trumps. All Trumps is a 14% spring wheat high gluten flour that’s predominately used in the New York market.
Right now with the advent of a lot of the Neapolitan style pizza as we came out with a flour a couple years ago called Gold Medal Neapolitan it’s a 12% winter wheat protein. It’s actually what I call and they can flour we have no treatment on it so it’s no bleach, no brominated but it also has no malted barley flour.
With some of these high heat applications what they’re wanting is a something that reduces a little bit of that browning because the oven does such a great job with the browning so we took away the malt so that you don’t get those additional residual sugars in there. So those two are some of the big ones right now.
For the rest of the Tim Huff interview, watch the video below or you may listen to the MP3 below video.
You can contact Tim at: email@example.com
You can listen to the MP3 of this interview or download of below:
Mix together flour, salt yeast, water (and depending who you talk to: olive oil), and you can make a great pizza. Mix together two of the most passionate pizza makers in the U.S.A. and there is no telling what you are going to end up with. The end result as in both examples will be pure pizza satisfaction. With the later you will discover what fuels that passion and drive. You will also understand the spirit of pizza and the relationships that can be created as a result.
Pizza Brothers: Jonathan Goldsmith and John Arena
I was very fortunate to snag John Arena (Metro Pizza, Las Vegas) and Jonathan Goldsmith (Spacca Napoli, Chicago) at the close of Pizza Expo2016, in Las Vegas. The conversation was fast, furious and totally from the heart. Both come from very different places in the pizza industry.
John, from New York, grew up around pizza and began making pizza at a very young age. John continues to make pizza at his pizzerias in Las Vegas. In addition, he also teaches the only certified Collegiate Level class on pizza at UNLV. John spreads the joy and love with pizza at several locations around Las Vegas. While he knows New York style pizza well, he is also able to make numerous styles of pizza. John was recently invited by Caputo Flour to go to Italy to help develop a New York Style Flour. He was accompanied by pizza luminaries Tony Gemignani, Scott Wiener, Guilio Adriani, and Michele D’Amelio. (You can see a video of this event by clicking here)
Jonathan Goldsmith, learned his craft by going to the source of pizza: Naples, Italy. Jonathan learned his craft from Master Pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia. Jonathan has studied and continues to study his craft. His pizzeria, Spacca Napoli, recently celebrated a tenth anniversary. Jonathan who was a concerned with social change in a former profession, carries that over into his business of creating pizza.
While John will use olive oil in his pizza creation, Jonathan will use none. Their pizzas can be quite different, however they share a love of pizza and of each other. They have developed a strong bond over the years which continues to grow. Their passion for the craft of creating pizza is endless. When asked where is the common ground, John holds up his hands.
Both Jonathan and John embody the true spirit of pizza. While there are certain differences in their style. there is common ground in turning simple ingredients into pure pizza magic. The wonderful thing about both is their willingness to share and collaborate with others who share in the joy of creating pizza. Both are willing to share their experience with a pizza master or someone who is just discovering the love of pizza. Pizza is a dish which inspires and illuminates.
This is a great interview with two incredible pizza makers who share in the brotherhood of pizza.
You can listen to an audio of this interview, or download it if you wish, below:
This incredible pizza event also known as the International Pizza Expo will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center on March 7-10, 2016 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas.
There will an incredible array of Pizza Vendors, showing the latest pizza products. Of course there will be lots of pizza to sample.
Understand Pizza Expo is:
The Largest Pizza Show in the World.
THE Trade Show for the Pizza Industry.
Attendees include pizzeria or pizza-concept restaurant owners, operators and managers, as well as distributors and food brokers.
Pizza Expo is not open to the general public.
According to the Pizza Expo website:
With nearly 500 exhibiting companies on the show floor, Pizza Expo is the place for independent and chain pizzeria owners and managers to one-stop shop for nearly any needed product or service — and see what’s new in the industry. Attendees can expand their knowledge on topics relevant to business success during Expo’s more than 90 seminars, workshops and baking demonstrations. They also can participate in pizza skills competitions and go to special events such as the Beer & Bull networking session and the Pizza Expo Block Party.
I wanted to share two preview interviews with you.
The first from Tony Gemignani who discusses his key note presentation. I was able to catch up with Tony on a recent visit to Hawaii. Tony was forthcoming and fun. He will be discussing the past, the present and the future of Pizza.
The second interview is with Tony’s Number One, Executive Chef Laura Meyer, at his restaurant Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco. Laura was recently named one of Forbe’s 30 Under 30, an honor which was richly deserved.
You can catch both Tony and Laura in person at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.
And if you are in San Francisco make sure you go to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
Here is some priceless video of Frank Pepe making pizza at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Wooster Street in New Haven, Connecticut. You can view step by simple step how he casually puts together a pizza. Simple, easy with the love of making an incredible pizza.
The Frank Pepe Pizza Box
What I find most fascinating is the how casual he is while putting together his pizza.
The simplicity of the ingredients. The master is able to shape the pizza gently and deliberately.
There is no hesitation in his pizza making…
I do not know the origin of this video. It was posted on YouTube and I am just sharing it. Frank Pepe passed away in 1969 so this video was shot some time in the 50’s or -60’s.
The Pizza Crew at Frank Pepe’s
Just as a contrast, I present some video of pizza maing at Pepe’s. This is a video I created myself.
Here are some the pizzas that come out of the Pepe’s oven.
Scott Anthony talks about his pizza, and how he uses his pizzeria Punxsy Pizza as a vehicle for social change.
Scott Anthony is a Pizza Consultant as well as a pizzeria owner. He has been in the pizza business over twenty years. For many of those years he ran a very successful pizza franchise. He took the franchise to one of the top selling pizzerias in the chain.
Scott decided he wanted to take his pizza making to the next logical step and that was to open his own independent local pizza shop in his home town. He dropped the franchise and created his own local pizzeria called: Punxsy Pizza.
What sets his pizzeria apart is what Scott has done for the local community. He has created a fund raiser for the local fire department known as Punxsy Pizza and Prevention. Scott gets the fire Department involved in making pizza and delivering pizza. This fund raiser is wildly successful for the Local Volunteer Fire Department as most of their funds come through donations. According to the local paper more than $40,000 in donations was raised in a single day. Every dollar went to support the local fire department.
Donations from Punxsy Pizza!
Scott is at the forefront of using pizza for social change. He is a role model for other pizzeria operators regarding the power of pizza. Scott understands using pizza for Social Good.
Punxsy Pizza and Prevention
Scott has had Tony Gemignani come to Punxsutawney, PA to promote pizza. Tony is the author of The Pizza Bible and did an entire event there. In addition Tony G. was almost attacked by Punxsutawney Phil. Scott cites one of his highlights in his career was being named to the World Pizza Champions Team.
Scott Anthony and Tony Gemignani
The following interview with Scott was done at Pizza Expo. One of my favorite quotes from Scott is :”What’s good for Punxsatawney, is good for me”. Scott is the conscience of pizza! Thank you Scott for all that you do!
115 N Findley St, Punxsutawney, PA 15767
Witness an actual demonstration of how to make a clam Pizza at Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana.
The dough is stretched to the correct shape which is actually an oval shape rather than a round shape.
This is the signature dish at Pepe’s. While many other pizzaiolo and chefs will try to duplicate the Calm Pie, there really is only one clam pizza.
The clam pizza starts with fresh clams and their clam juice. One of the reasons for the success of Pepe’s clam pizza may be the local seafood that is used. These are actual New England fresh clams. Many parts of the country are unable to get the actual clams used. These are native clams of the East Coast.
Slice of Bacon Pizza and a slice of clam
The clam pizza is cooked with almost no cheese. There will be a sprinkling of Parmesan, but no mozzarella is used (pronounced mootz in New Haven).
Pepe’s Clam Pizza
Also take note of the huge amount of clams that are put on each pizza. They do not skimp on clams at Pepe’s. The Clam Pizza is a white pizza, you will not find any tomato sauce here. Then there is an amount of Parmesan Cheese put on the pizza. Spices and a sprinkle of olive oil finish off the pizza. Another feature that adds to the taste of Pepe’s pizza is coal fired oven used to cook the pizza. The oven can get up to 900 degrees F. The pizza is cooked quickly and completely.
Pepe’s Clam Pizza
You can see the actual way to make a Pepe’s Clam pizza in the following video:
Once the pizza is finished it comes out of the coal fired oven and then put on a serving try where the pizza is cut inot slices. These serving trays are placed on your table and really make a unique holder for the pizza.
I was able to interview Gary Bimonte, grandson of Frank Pepe on the history of the clam Pizza. Gary explains that the clam pizza was actually an accident. Gary states that the clam pizza was invented right on Wooster street.
Tony Gemignani and Albert Grande at Pizza Rock, Las Vegas
Here is an exclusive video interview with Tony Gemignani, World Famous Pizza Chef as he takes us behind the scenes of his award winning pizzeria Pizza Rock. One of the most knowledgeable and colorful pizzaiolo in the Industry, he is friendly and forthcoming. Tony is the owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, one the best pizza places in that city.
I was very fortunate to be able to interview Tony as he explained every important feature of the restaurant. This was an exclusive “back of the house” pizza tour with one of the Legends of Pizza. He takes us to the prep stations where the pizzas are made and prepared. He shows the pasta station where fresh pasta is made daily. He shows the making of fresh sausage. He even introduces us to Chef Andrew, a mainstay at Pizza Rock in Green Valley.
Tony explains the importance of using the best and freshest ingredients when making his Italian recipes and especially pizza.
Tony Gemignani inspects a pizza
One of the more important aspects of any pizza according to Tony is the water used when making pizza. He discusses the use of a reverse osmosis machine in preparing the water used for pizza. The water is critical in making great pizza Tony explains. The reverse osmosis process pulls everything out of the water. Tony shows us the industrial dough mixer that is used to create the pizza dough.
Tony’s Pizza Naoletana
“Water is the second highest ingredient is pizza dough, states Tony. “Not so much the flavor of it, but how the yeast works, the softness of it, the conditioning of it, the manageability of it. There is a lot that goes into it. You do not want to use super hard water”.
Our friends at Metro Pizza, in Las Vegas are celebrating an anniversary…
They have been making pizza at Metro for over 35 years…
John Arena with pizza
John and Sam, the owners have pizza in their blood. They grew up making pizza at the family run pizza business.
Learning to make pizza at Metro
Here’s the story:
Thirty five years ago, two young men from New York saw an Ad in an Italian newspaper. The ad was for the sale of pizza place in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After much discussion, they packed their bags borrowed a car and headed to a new life in Las Vegas to start a pizza business.
Things were not easy, but both were determined and dedicated to make their pizzeria work.
They named the pizzeria, Metro in honor of their New York roots.
They struggled. They worked. They tried. And they made pizza…
And more pizza. And more pizza!
They held onto the dream… and expanded their pizza vision
Along the road, they influenced other would be pizzeria owners in their own pizza journey…
They freely share their love and knowledge of pizza to anyone who asks. They continue to make pizza, teach pizza share the spirit of pizza …
They are known simply as:
“The pizza guy and the other pizza guy!”
John and Sam, We thank you! We praise you… We salute you!
Here’s to Metro Pizza and to you both.
The pizza guy and the other pizza guy!
Keep on doing what you do….
Check out our video tribute to Metro pizza:
From the Metro website, here is their philosophy:
We believe that a true Pizzeria should be a gathering place for family and friends to relax, share great food and enjoy each other’s company. We have visited hundreds of Pizzerias across the country, learning and gathering recipes to bring our guests a taste of home, wherever home might be.
Which city has the best pizza? At Metro Pizza we celebrate all of the great traditions of the pizza experience and we Thank You for choosing us as your neighborhood Pizzeria.
Metro Pizza 1395 East Tropicana Avenue
Las Vegas, Nevada
Tropicana & Maryland Parkway
Phone: (702) 736-1955
And if you are looking for Pizza T-shirts…
Check this out: Pizza T-shirts