There’s the Olympics, there’s the Soccer World Cup, there’s the Bledisloe, then there’s the World Pizza Championship.
The World Pizza Championship is a gruelling contest that takes place annually in different locations across Italy, including Parma and Naples. It’s the ultimate test for those looking to take out the glorious title of the world’s best pizza maker (or pizzaioli).
The 3-day event has been running since 1991 and has a long and colourful history as the world’s biggest celebration of all things pizza. It is organised and run by the world renowned magazine Pizza e Pasta Italiana (Pizza and Pasta Italy) who pick the judges and curate the events.
This is by no means a small, one-task event. The World Pizza Championship is an arduous competition spanning an entire weekend. 2016 saw a record edition of the tournament, with 40 different nations represented, totalling over 700 participants. Not to mention the deluge of judges, industry professionals, sponsors and pizza aficionados (some 500,000 in 2016) that flock to the event each year. It’s a thrilling, passion-filled pizza experience.
Over the three days, 13 different cooking and acrobatic ‘races’ take place including:
• Classic pizza
• Individual free-style
• Gluten-free pizza
• Pan pizza
• STG Neapolitan pizza
• Pizza on the peel
• Largest pizza
• Pizza for two
• The world pizza team
• The Heinz Beck trophy
• The pizza triathlon
• The highest score by country
• Special awards
This spread of tasks means you see everything at the World Pizza Champions, not just your classic ham and pineapple (although this has been known to happen). There are dough-spinning events and even pizza masterclasses where you learn how to make the perfect pizza base.
For the winners, the title of World Pizza Champion is glorious. Last year saw Tony Gemignani from Tony’s Pizza Napoletana become the first American to ever win the Pizza In Pala division, his twelfth world pizza championship. “It was such a surreal experience to hear my name announced and feel the crowd erupt,” he said. “It was one of the best moments of my life.”
We’re not surprised it was.
His winning pizza was a delicate concoction: his base a personal creation that uses seven different grains in its dough and ingredients that Gemignani has collected from his travels across Italy: wild board prosciutto, Grande and Aiello Mozzarella, black volcano salt, Stanislaus tomato, Durati Menú Tomato, basil, goat cheese and 30 month old Parmigiano Reggiano.
Nothing on our Charlie’s Special though.
Not all you see at the World Pizza Championship is what you’d expect though. Not always is it about the classics.
Last year, French pizza maker Ludovic Bicchierai took out the ‘classic pizza’ category with his Franco-inspired bouillabaisse pizza, beating Italian pizza legends Alfio Russo and Niccolo Cusumano to take out the top prize.
His french soup pizza was topped with tomatoes, bream carpaccio, mozzarella, courgette flowers, prawns and Tabasco sauce. And it was this kind of obscurity that helped him take out the top prize.
Quite a few Australian’s have won the competition in the past, including Johnny Di Francesco owner of 400 Gradi in Melbourne, who won the Neapolitan pizza category back in 2014.
In 2016, Silvio Serpa, who owns Pizzaly in Preston, Melbourne, took out the top prize for his classic margherita pizza – the same that he makes everyday in his restaurant.
Maybe next year we will make the trip and show them all how it’s done.
Do you absolutely love pizza like we do? Then maybe consider making a pilgrimage to the World Pizza Championship. If that sounds like a little too much effort, need not worry. We have the world’s best pizza in Sydney right here in Enmore.