Author Topic: Tony Gemignani world champion Neapolitan pizza maker  (Read 13296 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

Never trust a skinny cook!

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?
If you're looking for a date... go to the Supermarket.If you're looking for a wife....go to the Farmers market


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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