Jose Flores prepares his award-winning pizza.

Jose Flores / Instagram

Jose Flores Wins Galbani Professionale Pizza Cup

McKenna Carney also took top honors as the U.S. Pizza Team Acrobatics Champion at the Pizza Tomorrow Summit.

  • Pizzaioli from across the country competed to make the best non-traditional pizza in this year’s Galbani Professionale Pizza Cup, held on November 9 in Orlando.
  • McKenna Carney of The Nona Slice House put a new spin on dough to become the U.S. Pizza Team’s freestyle acrobatics champion on November 10.

Related: Pizza Tomorrow Summit defies hurricane to become huge success

High winds and sideways rain could not keep pizza makers and spinners from across the continental U.S. and beyond from attending the 2022 Galbani Professionale Pizza Cup & U.S. Pizza Team Acrobatic Trials (GPPC), held Nov. 9-10 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The inaugural Pizza Tomorrow Summit, a new trade show for the pizza restaurant industry, hosted this exhilarating event, produced by Galbani Professionale US and the U.S. Pizza Team, in search of the United States’ next pizza ambassador to the world—and the search was fruitful.

Covering categories from Non-Traditional Pizza, a culinary competition that spotlighted Galbani cheeses, to Largest Dough Stretch, Fastest Pie Maker and the ever-mesmerizing Freestyle Acrobatics, the field of over 30 competitors was whittled down to a handful of winners, with a final champion from both Non-Traditional and Freestyle categories earning a trip to compete at the World Pizza Championship in Parma, Italy, April 18-20, 2023.

Day one showcased the largest field of competitors with a focus on Non-Traditional Pizza. Entries ranged from New York to Detroit and even Neapolitan pizza styles. Two groups of competitors competed in the first round for the opportunity to proceed to the finals, culminating in a one-on-one pizza cook-off between Craig Allenbaugh of Sauced Pizza & Catering in Fairview Park, Ohio, and Jose Flores of Crust Lovers Pizza in Sanford, Florida.

Jose Flores (Photo by Dana Niemeier)

Top honors in the final round cook-off went to Flores with his Kebab Pizza. Featuring a four-day fermented dough started with a poolish of All Trumps, the Kebab showcased a base of homemade sauce with Italian parsley and cilantro and a Galbani Premium Whole Milk Mozzarella/Provolone 50/50 Blend plus 20% of smoked gouda. Flores wowed the judges’ taste buds with perfectly seasoned ground lamb, tomatoes, onions, a homemade tzatziki sauce and fresh parsley leaves.

“I went to the competition with no expectations of winning,” Flores said. “My plan from day one was to present something different and to enjoy the experience since it was my first competition. On the other hand, to be able to present the flavors I was looking for, it took me more than three months of perfecting the sauce and the seasoning on the meat. After all this, I realized that if you do not take the risk, you lose the chance, and let everything fall into place.”

McKenna Carney (Photo by Dana Niemeier)

Day two brought about the Acrobatics categories, featuring Largest Dough Stretch, Fastest Pie Maker and the visually compelling Freestyle Acrobatics. McKenna Carney of The Nona Slice House in Safety Harbor, Florida, emerged as the winner of the Freestyle Acrobatics Finals. Carney also won the Chicago U.S. Acrobatic Trials in August and, with her victory in Orlando, claimed the title of 2022 USPT Acrobatics Champion and the chance to compete in the World Pizza Championship next year in Parma, Italy.

In the Orlando semi-finals, Carney was closely followed by Wilhelm Rodriguez of Papa’s Pizza in Puerto Rico and Kevin Knott and Travis Siebens, also of Nona’s, respectively. The title of Fastest Pie Maker went to competitive veteran David Whisker of B.C. Pizza in Boyne City, Michigan, with Largest Dough Stretcher honors going to Rodriguez.

Congratulations to ALL competitors of the 2022 Galbani Professionale Pizza Cup & Acrobatic Trials:

Non-Traditional Pizza Semi-Finals:
Oven #1 Winners:
1. Jose Flores, Crust Lovers Pizza, Sanford, Fla.
2. Kevin Knott, The Nona Slice House, Safety Harbor, Fla.
3. Wilhelm Rodriguez, Papa’s Pizza, Puerto Rico

Oven #2 Winners:
1. Craig Allenbaugh, Sauced Pizza & Catering, Fairview Park, Ohio
2. Joey Streeter, The Nona Slice House, Safety Harbor, Fla.
3. Michael Athanasopoulos, The Lamb & The Wolf, Yuba City, Calif.

Semi-Finals:
1. Wilhelm Rodriguez, Papa’s Pizza, Puerto Rico
2. Kevin Knott, The Nona Slice House, Fla.
3. Travis Siebens, The Nona Slice House, Fla.

U.S. Pizza Team Acrobatic Finals

Largest Dough Stretch:
1. Wilhelm Rodriguez—25.45″
2. McKenna Carney, The Nona Slice House—24.875″
3. Jerry Zampella, PJ’s Brick Oven Pizza, Spring Hill, Fla.—24.525”

Fastest Pie Maker:
1. David Whisker, B.C. Pizza, Boyne City, Mich.—46.37 seconds
2. Joey Streeter, The Nona Slice House—63.09 seconds
3. Kevin Knott—63.32 seconds

Other competitors included Alex Fotiadis, Corleone’s Famous New York Pizza & Gyros, Daytona Beach, Fla.; Anthony Brown, The Pie Factory, Largo, Fla.; Bradley Beam, Palm Coast, Fla.; Bryan Kid Collazzo, Episodio 1: Pizzeria Libre, Cabo Rojo, P.R.; Cesare Di Iorio, Napule Italian Restaurant, Sarasota, Fla.; Daniel Saccone and Stephany Nagy, Saccone’s Pizza & Subs, Austin, Tex.; Darren Molnar, Pizza Parlor (609), Orlando, Fla.; Deserai Satullo, Sauced Pizza & Catering; Frank Piscitelli, Franks Pizza, Ft. Myers, Fla.; George Taylor, Taylors’ Pizza House, Endwell, N.Y.; Giovanni Labbate, Tievoli Pizza Bar, Palatine, Ill.; Ivan Venesia, Wilmington Beach, Calif.; Kenny Kingswell, Strega Nona’s Oven, Gainesville, Fla.; Rico Lunardi, Slice on Broadway, Pittsburgh, Penn.; Robert Bair, SoDough Square Pizza, Orlando, Fla.; and Vitangelo Recchia, Bella Napoli Pizzeria & Restaurant, Port Charlotte, Fla.

The USPT competes all year-round in various culinary and acrobatic trials across the country and in international competitions. The GPPC was sponsored by Galbani Professionale US, PizzaMaster and Pizza Solutions. The USPT is sponsored by Galbani Professionale US, Margherita Meats, La Nova, Real California Milk, Grain Craft, Burkett Restaurant Equipment and Supplies, Univex, MFG Tray, Perfect Crust Pizza Liners, Lillsun Peels, and Throw Dough.

For more information on the U.S. Pizza Team, visit www.uspizzateam.com or brian@pmq.com.