I was honored to be selected as a judge at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas earlier this month. The competition was split into five different culinary categories: Italian, American Pan, Traditional, Non-Traditional, and Gluten Free. I gave my input in both the Traditional and Non-Traditional. categories. Competitors in the Traditional category are allowed to use a sauce, cheese, and two additional toppings. Every category has guidelines about what you can and can’t use EXCEPT FOR the Non-Traditional category. That’s right. NO RULES!
Pizza makers usually throw together crazy topping combinations, but this year I noticed a lot of experimentation with dough and crust. Take a look at some of the funky crust improvisations that came across my desk.
Burnt Grain, or “Grano Arso”
Louie Bossi, of Louie Bossi’s Restaurante Bar Pizzeria in Fort Lauderdale, FL, used a super old school peasant food tradition for his crust. He used a product called Grano Arso, or “burnt grain” in his dough mix. Farmers in the Puglia region of Italy traditionally burned their fields after the harvest and allowed peasants to scavenge for the leftover bits of wheat after the fire died down. It was a cheap way to supplement their flour supply. Now it’s probably the most expensive product on the market. (Yup, I looked it up and found an 11 lb bag of this stuff for $75. Yikes.)
Tony Vacchio of Zola’s Restaurant in Ottowa, Canada infused his crust with Indonesian charcoal powder. Besides coloring the dough, charcoal is said to help fight indigestion, lower cholesterol, and help treat intestinal problems. Probably a good thing to eat when one is judging a pizza competition!
Pizzeria Davinci’s Drew Sassi created a bagel crust by sprinkling seeds to the rim of his pizza. I’ve seen this done before with sesame seeds but this sucker is like an everything bagel. Super cool.