More than 2,000 industry professionals, from large restaurateurs to small chain owners, turned out for this year’s Sofo Foods Signature Showcase event, held at the Renaissance Hotel on Sunday, April 28, in Toledo, Ohio. Two hundred vendors, including national and international brands, displayed the latest and greatest equipment, online ordering systems and food products the industry has to offer.
Family-owned and operated for more than 70 years, Sofo is one of the largest distributors of ethnic foods in the United States. The company delivers to restaurants and pizzerias in more than 22 states and has 500-plus dedicated team members.
At this year’s Signature Showcase event, Sofo’s Innovation Stage spotlighted five-time world pizza champion Brittany Saxton of Six Hundred Downtown in Bellefontaine, Ohio; Steffano Zengar of Lena’s Kitchen in Blissfield, Michigan; world-renowned chef Pasquale Cozzolino, author of The Pizza Diet; and Michael Shepherd, founder of PerfectingPizza.com, a pizzeria consulting company.
Sofo also honored its customers that have been in business for 25 or 50 years, some of which will be inducted into PMQ’s Pizza Hall of Fame. Additionally, the event featured the U.S. Pizza Team’s Spring Acrobatic Trials competition, which was aired live on ESPN3. Claiming first place was Tara Hattan of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She dazzled the audience with her three-minute routine that included a big finish in which she leapt on top of the prep table to spin her doughs. The performance earned Hattan a chance to compete on the international stage at the European Pizza & Pasta Show this month in London.
Hattan wasn’t the only big winner at the Sofo event. Todd Rose of Rose Bros. Pizza, located in Hamilton, Indiana, won a shiny new Vespa scooter in a raffle for the event!
“The Sofo Foods Signature Showcase has evolved into a can’t-miss event for the pizza restaurant industry,” says PMQ publisher Steve Green. “We are excited to be a part of it each year and look forward to watching it grow in the years to come.”
Staff Picks – Linda Green
Joe Todaro III, founder of La Nova Wings, has been exhibiting at this event from the start. “Sofo Foods was one of the first distributors that La Nova Wings had back in 1994,” he says. “I remember getting a phone call from Dennis Summerford on a Tuesday asking to be in the show on that Sunday. So, I packed up my ovens and wings and haven’t missed one since!” We still love La Nova’s line of chicken wings and sauces. From the barbeque and oven-roasted flavors to the Italian-style and Hot-n-Spicy, they’ve got something for everyone. lanova.com
Delicious and convenient, Bellissimo’s frozen dough balls have a truly authentic flavor, thanks to their excellent ingredients, and are available in a variety of unique flavors. The dough balls are made to order, ensuring freshness and allowing the product to last longer on the pizzeria owners’ shelves. They use a secret combination of time and temperature to create the perfect frozen dough ball that’s perfect for any bread, pizza, calzone and more.
It was a pleasure to meet and talk with the folks at Minuteman Press International, which was the official printer of Sofo Foods. “We really loved attending the annual show and getting to meet everyone in person,” they told me. “The more time we spend getting to know our foodservice clients, the more we learn what we can do to help them.” Everyone has been raving about their new designer, who has been creating some amazing menus for restaurant clients. minutemanpress.com
Staff Picks – Chris Green
I was very impressed with how long Packaging & Pads-R-US has been saving pizzas. For almost 30 years, they’ve retained the integrity of pizza. The pizza you make in your pizza shop is usually not the same pizza when it gets to the customer’s house. For about a nickel a pie, you can keep your pie warmer, crust crisper and moisture out of the box with Packaging & Pads-R-US. pandprus.com
After sampling some of Stella’s Gourmet’s products, it was apparent they had developed a few tried-and-true simple classics that not only taste great but that are commercially viable for the pizza industry. Quickly heat and serve the chocolate chip pizza cookie, pizza brownie and s’mores pizza cookie, and you’ve got a fresh-out-of-the oven taste in a matter of seconds. If you haven’t had a dessert option for your pizzeria, you do now! stellasgourmet.com
It’s not uncommon for show attendees to flock to the coffee booth. Like most, I made my way to S&D Coffee and Tea’s booth, and I was happy I did. S&D has been behind most of the coffee you’ve had in your favorite restaurant for years, partnering with more than 110,000 customers. Their single-serve private-label solutions could be the answer for getting customized coffee into the hands of your pizza customers. sdcoffeetea.com
I was intrigued to find out about the rich history that Pierino Frozen Foods has sustained over 50 years. From humble beginnings in the 1960s, they were the early pioneers of precooked ravioli, cutting the prep time in half, and have since gone on to create 100 SKUs from their 30,000-square-foot facility. Happy 50 years to Pierino Frozen Foods! pierinofrozenfoods.com