Author Topic: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker  (Read 14400 times)

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Offline Seaside Thom

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Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« on: August 21, 2007, 11:16:27 PM »
Dear Pizza People
I thought you might enjoy this good news about Tony, east bay pizzaria operator, winning the coveted prize.  Excuse me if this is common knowledge. From sfgate.com.


The Bay Area's own Tony Gemignani went to Naples, the birthplace of pizza, and came home the world champion Neapolitan pizza maker - beating every Italian contender in the very city where pizza was born.

But he still can't make his championship thin-crust margherita pie at his own Castro Valley pizzeria, Pyzano's, which he runs with his brother, Frank (or at their Spin Gourmet Pizza nightspot in Walnut Creek).

They make lots of pizzas - New York, Californian and their own fully loaded American-style Pyzano's pie - but not the Neapolitan.

That's because Pyzano's doesn't have a wood-fired oven, the only kind that gets hot enough - 900 degrees - to give Neapolitan pizza its classic blister and char. Like many urban areas, Alameda County restricts wood ovens to cut pollution.

In Pyzano's gas oven, which tops out at around 600 degrees, Gemignani's margherita bakes to a golden crispness. It's delicious - but not what Naples has in mind when it comes to pizza.

"We always wanted a wood-fired oven," Gemignani told me. And now, he hopes his upstart win may allow that to happen.

Over samples of his various pizzas - all have different crusts, made from different flours and recipes - Gemignani relived his day at the Trofeo Citta de Napoli Championato Internationale per Pizzaioli in June.

"It was a big win," he said. "People are comparing it to Stag's Leap (Wine Cellars) going to Paris," and beating the best French Bordeaux makers in the 1976 tasting that put California Cabernet Sauvignon on the map.

Until that day, Gemignani's claim to fame came as a pizza acrobat, winning eight championships for feats like spinning a disk of dough to 33.2 inches in just two minutes and rolling stretched pizza dough across his shoulders 37 times in a row. He's appeared on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show," and is a Food Network regular with Emeril and Rachael Ray.

A couple of years ago, Gemignani hit his 30s and realized he was becoming the old man of the acrobatic world, so he decided to focus his competitive energies on baking. He flew to Italy to earn his certification as a pizzaiolo, or pizza maker. Italy takes its pizza seriously - the rules for making a Neapolitan pizza run to five single-spaced pages.

He installed a small portable Bee Hive wood oven in his Castro Valley backyard and started baking, with his Sicilian-born wife Julie serving as guinea pig and critic.

Hundreds of pizzas later, they headed to Naples for the two-day event in June. This was just the second year that the Naples trophy championship has been held.

Gemignani was one of 12 Americans among the almost 50 contestants. None of them was expected to win - especially not someone from California, where great pizza is notoriously tough to find, and where non-classic ingredients like figs, lamb and smoked salmon might show up as toppings.

When Gemignani showed up with his dough, tomato sauce, basil and salt in wooden bowls and trays, one young Italian pizza maker commented derisively, "You could tell him we have stainless steel now."

Before the day was out, the joke was on the young Italian.

Gemignani showed me exactly what he did, before the sharp eyes of the Italian judges.

His crust is made with just flour, water and salt - and the flour must be the "double zero" kind, meaning it's low-protein and low-gluten. In a few deft gestures, he stretched it to 13 inches, leaving a thicker edge at the center; it can be no thicker than about one-tenth of an inch.

He seeded San Marzano tomatoes and added salt for a simple sauce, spread on in the required spiral motion. Fresh mozzarella, a little basil, a swirl of olive oil - that's it. The ingredients must be at room temperature, which is why he uses wood; stainless steel feels colder.

"It's really back to the basics of the way pizza was traditionally made," he says.

Once in the oven, the pie got a quarter turn every 15 seconds; 80 seconds later it was done - and a winner.

Afterward, the Italian contenders sat him down and demanded to know: "Who taught you?" He told them that although he learned basic pizza-making in Italy, he taught himself the Naples way.

Now, the Gemignanis are hoping they'll finally be able to bake Tony's champion pizza back home. Because of his win, the VPN - the Associazione della Verace Pizza Napoletana, or association of true Neapolitan pizza - has authorized him to open a pizza school in Castro Valley.

The Gemignani brothers plan to open a restaurant and school in downtown Castro Valley, if they can talk their local government into letting them fire up a wood-burning oven during certain hours of the week.

If that happens, they hope to start construction late this before year and move from their current location in a strip mall near Interstate 580.

But Tony Gemignani isn't waiting around. He's already found a supplier for the San Felice flour he used in the competition, and has brought in 30 55-pound bags - enough for 6,000 pizzas. And he's got a permit to bring a wood-fired oven to the parking lot outside Pyzano's for one day, Oct. 20.

For $17.95 a pie, the Bay Area will finally get the world's best Neapolitan pizza - without ever leaving home.

Pyzano's Pizzeria, 3835 E. Castro Valley Blvd. (in the 580 Marketplace mall), Castro Valley; (510) 881-8878 or pyzanospizzeria.com


Offline DWChun

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2007, 01:51:08 AM »
Wow, this is interesting news for sure. I have known about Tony Gemignani as a world champion pizza spinner but not as a maker. This victory is definitely a great achievement.


DW

Offline PizzaPolice

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2007, 06:06:22 PM »
Yawn...  After reading this long testament to self adoration, I was waiting for someone to sell me a timeshare or waterless cookware.

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2007, 09:36:36 PM »
PizzaPolice

I realize that I am new to these boards and have much to learn, but could you please enlighten me as to your meaning?

I understand the timeshare/waterless cookware comment... been to those "meetings" in my younger days, but the tenor of your post is obviously negative and I don't understand why... is Seaside Thom really Tony in disguise, therefore the "self adoration" comment?  Wouldn't seem to be so, hence my confusion.  Please enlighten me as I'm feeling kinda dumb and would love to understand.

~sd

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Offline DWChun

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2007, 12:10:25 AM »
I'm a bit in the dark as well. With over 250 views at the time of my reply, there are just a few replies so is there something going on to cause a lack of feedback on this topic? A non native winning a neapolitan pizza contest must be big news, right?


DW

Offline abatardi

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2007, 12:56:09 AM »
Everyone's just in a state of shock, I'm sure.  After listening to Marco for years they'd sooner believe flying leprechauns from the planet zorbax exist than an American being able to make neapolitan pizza... :-P

- aba
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Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2007, 12:32:10 PM »
Hi All,

I have been very busy lately and only browse through here quickly few times a month, and today I have found my name here...

I was not surpised to hear this as I was not surprised to hear about the Japanese guy 3 or 4 years ago.

Well, as I have partecipated to one of these championships myself lately, now I understand even more as these works...

Anyway, this so called context that was won by Mr Grimignani, needs to be evaluated also by who has partecipated (none of the famous neapolitan pizzamkers). It was also only organised by a secondary organization, Regina Margherita, that does indeed include "Il Pizzaiolo del presidente " among his members but even himself did not partecipate to this context...

Without going into to much details, this is the same as the Japanese guy winning few years ago the pizzafest competition, and another japanese winning somewhere else...

I am not even starting an arguements, all I am saying is that this championships needs to be taken for what are meant to be, marketing activity to promote the Pizza Napoletana (and relative products) to a larger scale (first Japan, now with over 25 "Neapolitan pizzerie" and next US where the roll out has been much slower...).

Again if there is someone out there that think he know best, I 'll invite him to the next context (actually there are 5 oor 6 before this one) in September at the Pizzafest in Naples. They will see with their own eyes how these things works...

You do not need to be Italian or neapolitan to make a good pizza napoletana, you need to have the right knowledge, experience and passion.

Ciao and good luck

Offline DWChun

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2007, 12:47:07 PM »
Thank you so much for the information! I think I understand the situation much better now.

Offline jasonmolinari

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2007, 12:54:42 PM »
Posted this in another thread, but my thoughts:

Personally i think the competition was somewhat hokey. From the ones i saw it was a weird combination of judges and participants, and it seemed targeted towards the "game" of the competition, rather than real pizza.
But maybe this competition was different from the ones i saw on TV.


Offline David

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2007, 02:52:26 PM »
About Il Presidente, I would be very surprised if he now use San felice. Noone in the city does and you can usually find that flour only south near Salerno... What is more, I know Ernesto, the masterpizzamaker, has used a mix Caputo Rossa e Pizzeria for a very long time...

Anyway, this so called context that was won by Mr Grimignani, needs to be evaluated also by who has partecipated (none of the famous neapolitan pizzamkers). It was also only organised by a secondary organization, Regina Margherita, that does indeed include "Il Pizzaiolo del presidente " among his members but even himself did not partecipate to this context...



Isn't this a San Felice sponsored event ? Maybe Il Presidente is using San Felice flour? Maybe they are not and have a conflict of interests,so decided not to participate?
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Offline scott r

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2007, 04:04:44 PM »
A friend of mine was invited in to watch Presidente mix thier dough last year and they were in fact using San felice, at least on that day.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2007, 04:34:18 PM by scott r »

Offline Evietoo

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2007, 04:29:44 PM »
Fascinating article.  No YAWN here.  Thanks for posting.

Offline pizza concerto

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2007, 07:25:38 PM »
My interest is piqued...I think it'll be worth a flight up to SF on Oct. 20 just to know what he's up to...

Dan
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Offline Seaside Thom

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2007, 08:53:24 PM »
I hope to see you there.  It will be my first visit to the champs or whatever's pizzaria.

Offline abatardi

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2007, 10:18:07 PM »

Anyway, this so called context that was won by Mr Grimignani, needs to be evaluated also by who has partecipated (none of the famous neapolitan pizzamkers). It was also only organised by a secondary organization, Regina Margherita, that does indeed include "Il Pizzaiolo del presidente " among his members but even himself did not partecipate to this context...


I'll have to actually agree with Marco here (*gasp*).  ;D  I looked into the competition and is only a couple years old and and seems to be more like the minor leagues of competitions.  Still impressive for Tony but it's not like he's de-throning any of the greats or anything.

- aba
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Offline abatardi

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2007, 10:19:59 PM »
I'm going as well.  It's driving distance for me so I am dragging my wife along too.  See you guys there.  :-)

- aba
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Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #16 on: August 29, 2007, 11:00:45 PM »
And I, for one, will be waiting to hear the reports from all the attendees!  Wish I could be there, too!  It will be interesting to see how Tony's pizza stacks up after the hype,  not only to the original but also compared to Chris Bianco's... cause I know most or all of you have been to Napoli (if not Chris') for the real thing!

~sd

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Offline scott r

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #17 on: August 30, 2007, 02:09:00 AM »
I understand why at first glance it seems like pizzeria bianco is making a neapolitan style pizza. Just like they do in naples he uses a wood burning oven and only the best possible ingredients, but when I got there I was surprised to find that Chris' pizza is nothing like neapolitan pizza.  What he makes is a really good elite NY style, but with strict quality control (unlike 90% of the new york pizzerias).   If you are in NY they simply call this coal oven pizza.  He makes a sturdy crust with lots of toppings, where an authentic Neapolitan style pizza would be minimally topped with a tender and delicate crust. 
« Last Edit: August 30, 2007, 02:26:06 AM by scott r »

Offline pizza concerto

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #18 on: August 30, 2007, 10:54:13 PM »
Great,

Hope to meet you guys up there on the 20th.  I'll be wearing a Pizzeria Bianco T shirt  8)...please introduce yourselves!

Dan
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Offline abatardi

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #19 on: August 30, 2007, 11:58:42 PM »
Yeah it's like a blend of NY / California I'd say
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Offline Tony G

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2007, 08:07:19 PM »
This is Tony Gemignani. Seems like some of you may be coming out to Pyzano's on Oct 20th. If so It would be very important that you call and get on the list. I am near 100 pre orders already and I may have to cap it sooner or later. After reading your reply's I see that some of you are quite excited and some of you are a bit scepical on the out come of my win. The win was indead great. I will say on my side of it that the competiton was profesional, The organization Margherita Regina is a very great one at that. I seemed to read something that stated that that association was secondary.. Not even close. Several VPN's are togehter in that association including Ernesto Cacciali and Gaetano Esposito. I visited several pizzerias and was very impressed with all of the operations. Several pizzaiolos competed from Naples and all of Italy. There was a Japanese competitor as well who has a pizzeria in Japan called Napuli - thats how he spelled it. He was trainned by Ernesto and he is quite impressive. The compettion was run by almost all VPN's they were either judges or organizers. Very helpful as well.
    Someone stated in a post that the big guys didn't compete from Naples. I do not know all the contestants but when it does come to a VPN pizzaiolo whos has generations in the pizza business you tend to understand that they really have nothing to prove by competing they are a bit past that now.
The event did bring a lot of people the Neapolitan category at the World Championships only brings about  18. This was was twice as many so the talent was there. Some Caputo competitors that i have seen in the past were there as well. Even though it was sponsored by San Felice
Ernesto did have San Felice at his pizzeria when we visited.. I saw other pizzerias have it as well. So San Felice is quite popular in Naples along with of course Caputo.
   For some of you when it comes to an internathinal compettion that is considered World Class the USA isn't well like especially in the pizza business. I have gone to more competitons in my time than most and have seen a lot. I don't think the ball is on my court when competing in Italy especially Naples. I am one who is sceptical as well. Out of any pizza I have ever made in a wood buring oven I would have to say that the one I won with was the best. The balance, color, dough, char, size, and taste was pretty great.
    I know some of you would like to know in detail other aspects of the pizza. I went with the Margherita. You have the right to choose 3 kindss Margherita Extra, Marinara, or Magherita

I used a cold rise method, By hand, Fresh Yeast, water from Napoli (slight taste of sulfer), Sea Salt, San Felice, let sit for a bit of time before mixing by hand. added salt last. cut and ball in to 220 grams let the dough rise in Stainless for 8 hour rise then tranfered to wood for the remaining 8 -9 hours.

Brought 2 Cento DOP with me just in case the brands in Naples were not good. I was right the ones I found were a bit young , not ripe, and not flavorfull. De seeded and de veined the Tomatoes. discarded the packing juice. Placed in wood bowl. I did see some alot of seeds in mosdt competitors sauce.. I am a bit picking and try to get them all out. Seeds then to be bitter. I did a video on this on our team web site and in the test I found Cento to be one of the best

Bought the basil in Naples

dop extra virgin olive oil in a copper pizzaiolo decaner

Used Mozzarella Fior di Late from Naples cubed it, and had it packed in a cheese cloth placed on wood bowl
 The technique part of the compettion is the hardest. hand formation with dough which there are a few different types I went with a standard NY push and slap. Everything is a spiral motion sauce, sea salt, mozz, basil oil. Then I asked a VPN to hold the peel up to the marble. you then have to transfer the un cooked pizza to the peel. Which in the Naples humitiy was quite hard the competiton is at an open tent like structure.. Propable 90 degree's with 6 wood buring ovens around the way. I saw some contestants had problems.. I made my pizzas into a 10 inch when trasfered it became approx 13 round no football shape- that what they want to see.  the ingredients going in were all at room temp. I think that was important especially in a near or over 900 oven.

The bake was great. The oven was good and hot..Clean as well. some ovens were not clean. I asked to have mine brushed.before. I rotated evry 15 second just under 90 pulled it out and it was great. 2 VPN checked the bottom pressed the dough then I was off the the other set of judges. i did see other ovens not bake as well. I used another oven for the classic side of the competiton and it wasn't very good. but thats how the compettions are

the outside rise of the dough was perfect not to thick not to thin and was the center. Nice char on top and on bottom, The judges seemed to like it. They questioned me on several things, weights, dough, cheese, bake etc..Someone said it wasn't fair that they were asking me so many questions sometimes they like to do that with US competitors. I answered all of them. Sometimes they ask terms that deal with weights and they think we don't know what we are talking about. I used Grams instead of oz for dough weitghts when I explained.

They tried it twice. asked for more. Which is in common for judges. One VPN told me mine was well balanced inlike some others.. He said not too much salt. They tried several pizzas before mone and had more to go. That was a good sign. I save one for me and shared it with the team

That night When they called my name I was pretty blown away..I knew the pizza was as good as it came out but you never think you would win 1st.. It was special. Glad I could share this with you. Several Italins were not too happy, several were. Looking forward to meeting some of you on the 20th. I have a forno Bravo coming in.. i hope i does the job. I talked with the owner who also worked at Mugnani. He seems to be ok with it. I said I like it hot he said no problem.. Thats the only thing I think I am worried about especailly when it is not you oven. I think it will be fine. looking forward to it.The ingredients arrive next week. San Felice. San Marzano etc... We will have a great time. I hope this answers some questions and summersie's the event


Tony Gemignani

Offline scott r

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #21 on: September 05, 2007, 08:35:30 PM »
Tony, I am so proud of you!  What an accomplishment.

Do you have any pictures of the winning pizza?


Offline jasonmolinari

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #22 on: September 05, 2007, 08:38:34 PM »
Great job Tony. Glad to hear it was a well sanctioned event. Congratulations

Do you have any comments on the Beehive oven you used to practice?
A few of us here have looked at them, but are worried about its small size.

thanks!
jason

Offline Boy Hits Car

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #23 on: September 06, 2007, 12:04:51 AM »
Thanks for that post Tony.  You should be proud.  Congrats.

Offline Peteg

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Re: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker
« Reply #24 on: September 06, 2007, 08:35:55 AM »
Great to have you on the forum Tony!  I'm sure we can all learn a lot from you.  I really enjoyed your book and I'm glad to here of your recent success.  Did you learn anything interesting while you were in Naples?  I'm sure we would all love to see some pictures if you get time.  Pete G.


 

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