Pizzaioli from across the United States and its territories sailed into the Orange County Convention Center for the 2023 Galbani Professionale Pizza Cup (GPPC) and Acrobatic Trials, hosted by Galbani Professionale US and the U.S. Pizza Team, at the second annual Pizza Tomorrow Summit November 8 and 9. From every corner of the map, talented pizza makers and athletes brought their style and pizza personality to the table to prove they have what it takes to earn the grand prize: a trip to compete in the World Pizza Championship (WPC) in Parma Italy, next April.
Day 1 of the GPPC featured the non-traditional pizza competition. Two groups of 13 talented pizzaioli faced off for first, second and third place as determined by four expert pizza adjudicators. The first-place winners from each group then faced off against each other to decide the Galbani Professionale Pizza Cup champion for the 2024 competitive season.
Top honors went to Niles Peacock of Niles Peacock Kitchen & Bar in Edmond, Washington. Peacock’s winning pie, called My Hot Date, featured a 96-hour pre-ferment dough, opened up and brushed with garlic oil and dusted with whole-milk mozzarella, Gorgonzola crumbles, garlic-rubbed medjool dates and a reduced balsamic glaze, finished with Galbani Pecorino Romano cheese.
“When I come to competitions like this, even if I don’t win, I still feel like a winner,” Peacock said. “I thought my pizza was beautiful, but I thought everyone else’s pizza was even more beautiful.” The judges disagreed, awarding him his first pizza making title.
Taking second place in the final round was USPT Premiere member Daniel Saccone of Saccone’s Pizza & Subs in Leander, Texas. Saccone satisfied the judges’ scorecards and tastebuds with a cheese pizza straight off the Saccone’s menu. Proving you don’t need all the extra bells and whistles when you have a strong, quality base product, his winning cheese pie starts on an 84-hour fermented dough and showcases Saccone’s signature sauce with whole peeled tomatoes and whole-milk mozzarella.
Finally, Dustin Finnegan of The Nona Slice House in Safety Harbor, Florida, took third place overall for the non-traditional competition, rounding out the winners podium.
Day 2 of the GPPC featured the USPT Acrobatic Trials, showcasing 10 of the country’s best pizza athletes in categories ranging from Largest Dough Stretch, Fastest Pie Maker and Fastest Box Folder to the visually stunning Freestyle Acrobatics segment.
Returning Freestyle Champion McKenna Carney of The Nona Slice House slid into the No. 1 spot, earning her third trip to the home of pizza for a chance to spin her way to a gold medal. Carney’s three-minute routine, set to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” showcased dance moves choreographed with intricate spins, rolls and tosses, mesmerizing the judges with her highly contagious enthusiasm and energy.
Taking home multiple gold medals, returning champion David Whisker of B.C. Pizza in Boyne City, Michigan, wrangled the top spots for both Fastest Box Folder and the Fastest Pie Maker. With times like 20.72 seconds for boxes and 33.28 seconds for fastest pie, Whisker has set some of the fastest times the GPPC has seen and will certainly be the benchmark for future games.
Taking home gold for the Largest Dough Stretch was Matt Hickey of Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Pittsburgh. A familiar face in the Acrobatic Trials, Hickey’s score of 34.125” will definitely be a high bar to clear next year.
Full competition standings are as follows:
Culinary Top 3 OVERALL (FINALS):
1. Niles Peacock
2. Daniel Saccone
3. Dustin Finnegan
Culinary Table 1 Results (SEMI-FINALS):
1. Daniel Saccone
2. Dustin Finnegan
3. Tore Trupiano – Mangia e Bevi, Oceanside, Calif.
Culinary Table 2 Results (SEMI-FINALS):
1. Niles Peacock
2. Jose Flores – Crust Lovers Pizza, Sanford, Fla., & Broadway Pizza Bar
3. Wilhelm Rodriguez – Papa’s Pizza, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
1st – McKenna Carney, The Nona Slice House, Safety Harbor, Fla.
2nd – Wilhelm Rodriguez, Papa’s Pizza, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
3rd – Matt Hickey, Caliente’s Pizza & Draft House, Pittsburgh, Penn.
Largest Dough Stretch:
1st – Matt Hickey, 34.125”
2nd – Wilhelm Rodriguez, 32”
3rd – Kevin Knott, The Nona Slice House, 28.75”
Fastest Pie Maker:
1st – David Whisker, B.C. Pizza, Boyne City, Mich., 33.28 sec.
2nd – Joey Streeter, The Nona Slice House, 40.88 sec.
3rd – Wilhelm Rodriguez, 43.31 sec.
Fastest Box Folder:
1st – David Whisker, 20.72 sec.
2nd – Justin Adams, Sicily Pizza and Restaurant, Nazareth, Penn., 24.44 sec.
3rd – Matt Hickey, 31.85 sec.
The Galbani Professionale Pizza Cup & Acrobatic Trials is made possible by USPT Platinum Sponsor Galbani Professionale US, the sponsors of the USPT, as well as other industry sponsors, like the Fiero Group and GI Metal. With help of these industry giants, the USPT can seek out the newest, best pizza talent in the country to represent the USA in international competition. The team wishes to extend a heartfelt thank you to Galbani Professionale US, Margherita Meats, REAL California Milk, La Nova, Grain Craft, Burkette Restaurant Equipment & Supplies, Univex Corporation, MFG Tray, Perfect Crust Pizza Liners, Palazzolo’s Cheese Hog, Lillsun Peels, and PMQ Pizza.