Two groups of pizza makers are teaming up for a tour of Latin America this winter. The six-week tour will travel to eight different cities across seven respective countries with the purpose of networking and offering Certified Masterclasses from Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN)-certified pizzaiolo Alessio Lacco, co-owner of Atlanta Pizza Truck and director of AVPN Atlanta.
The Latin American Tour, sponsored by AVPN, Latinos en Pizza and a variety of pizza-related vendors, has two key components: “Pizzaiolo Por Un Dia” (Pizzaiolo For a Day) and “Discovering the True Neapolitan Pizza.” Each will be a traveling workshop where pizza makers will give tutorials to those who wish to learn about making great pizza.
The tour will begin on December 30 in Panama and conclude on February 11 in Cancún. In between, the group of about eight pizza makers will make stops in:
- Quito, Ecuador
- Lima, Peru
- Santiago, Chile
- Bogotá, Colombia
- San José, Costa Rica
- Mexico City
One of the events, a tutorial hosted by Javiera Contardo of Dou Pizza in Santiago, Chile, was sold out within less than a week. Other events have seen steady registration and are close to being sold out as well.
The tour is the next step in an unlikely journey for Lacco and his wife and business partner, Sofia Arango. The duo were laid off from restaurant jobs in March 2020 and decided to start doing pizza pop-ups during the pandemic. That morphed into a full-time job where the two poured their passion into a pizza truck that’s become wildly successful.
The next step toward this Latin American Tour, however, was when Arango, who hails from Venezuela, noticed something about the pizza-making community in the U.S. and abroad on social media. While Lacco—who has been AVPN-certified since 2012—was part of a visible and noted community of pizza makers, the same recognition didn’t seem to exist for all of the Latino pizza makers in the industry. That, despite the fact that an estimated 36% of cooks in the U.S. are Latino, according to the National Restaurant Association.
This propelled Arango to create Latinos en Pizza, an Instagram account that started as a WhatsApp group. The account has amassed over 3,000 followers and counting since its April 2023 inception and focuses on promoting the pizza creations of Latinos from across the U.S. and Latin America.
As the account took off, Lacco and Arango began searching for ways to bring these Latino creators together. “We wanted to go down to [Latin America] and meet people,” Lacco said. “AVPN, their company got involved, and we began a partnership working with a different flour company, and soon we had a pizza-peel company, a cheese company—all of these people were interested in expanding their brand and reaching and connecting with all of these pizza makers. It was a real opportunity and we started to shape a tour.”
Lacco and Arango have been amazed by the response to the tour. That includes not just the vendors who stepped up to sponsor it and the folks who were eager to come along, but also the many people who reached out to host events in a variety of countries. They fielded so many inquiries that they are planning on making the tours a regular occasion, whether they are abroad or even in the U.S.
While this year’s tour focuses on Neapolitan-style pizza, Lacco said they’ve already spoken to flour companies that would like to promote different styles, like Chicago deep dish or Roman-style pizza.
When asked what they were looking forward to most about the tour, Lacco spoke excitedly about the tour’s first stop in Panama, where they will be cooking Neapolitan pizza on a portable pizza oven in a part of Panama that is only accessible via three hours of driving on a bumpy dirt road and a one-hour boat ride.
“It’s a very small island controlled by an indigenous population,” Lacco said. “They don’t even have electricity. We want to do this, show off Neapolitan pizza to remote places and say, ‘Hey, this is pizza. This is the real pizza. You probably have had Papa John’s, but this is what pizza is supposed to be.’”
The duo will be joined on the trip by AVPN instructor Giancarlo Schiano and other AVPN instructors who will be joining on a few legs of the trip rather than the whole tour. There will be pizza makers from Chile and Panama and students from AVPN Atlanta, too.
The whole group is looking forward to hearing from other pizza makers who would love to have them visit their city, country or remote island. It may not happen on this coming trip, but with the tailwinds they have propelling them forward, they hope there are many more of these trips to Latin America in their future.
“Everyone’s been like, please come meet us,” Arango said. “We’re going to arrive there and have no time to do anything. But this is a good thing—there’s a real trend here we’re seeing, and this tour is our way of keeping the momentum going.”
PMQ plans to have coverage of the trip. Follow along on our social media channels and right here at PMQ.com.