In my past articles you have probably noticed I like to experiment with dishes. To come up with something new or different, you need experience. This comes with being exposed to many different kinds of foods and cultures. It would take too long to write about my 34 years of traveling, but those years are what help some of my ideas come together. I came from Palermo, Sicily, at the age of seven and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. I spent many years as a corporate chef for Welbilt Equipment, and now I am a Corporate Chef and Sales Manager for Marsal & Sons Oven Co., and that makes me very proud to be part of something I love deeply; Italian food. Working for companies like these allows me to travel and gain the experience needed to produce new recipes.
A man named Antonio Tontonelli from Verona, Italy, who I met at a show in N.Y., approached me and asked if I would do some work for him. I liked him, so I agreed. He wanted me to go to Verona and set up an American style pizzeria. The first thing I asked was if we had the products that were needed, and his answer was “That’s why I want you.” I flew to Milan and from there we drove to Verona, which is the city in the story Romeo and Juliet.
Now let’s go to work. It was not easy for me with the limited supply of cheese, flour, and toppings, but I had to make this work and I had only two weeks to do it. After three or four days I made all the adjustments on the product. We started out with party tray pizzas and the Italians renamed it Pizza a Taglio. This is how this type of pizza was born in Italy. They said it wouldn’t work, but I proved them wrong. The Italians are very proud of their food and to have something American wouldn’t do, so this is why they gave it an Italian name. I also introduced the 20-inch pizzas for slices, which are now very popular there. We created Stromboli. By the way, my friend Sal and I created the Stromboli in Pennsylvania. After that, we made all the other dishes needed for the pizzeria. We had the grand opening and it was a big success. If you are ever in Verona, visit Melody Pizza on the Main Piazza.
My point to this is that in order to be able to modify and adapt recipes and create new ones is you have to step out of your four walls and gain knowledge about new combinations, cooking styles, cultures and tastes. If you stay in a hole, you will die in a hole.Take a vacation, go some place you’ve never been and try things you have never tried. Visit New York City in November and sample the thousands of pizzas it has to offer, travel like I did with the U.S. Pizza Team to Italy, take the Pizza Cruise in January and venture out on the pizza excursions and sample Caribbean and Jamaican flavors and bring all of this back into you kitchen. Experiment with new ideas and don’t be afraid if the first try doesn’t come out right, just modify and tweak it and eventually you’ll stumble across something new. It could end up being the next big thing. I have made a lot of mistakes, but I fixed the mistakes. I am still learning. The shows I attend are what have made me smarter. I have learned a lot from them. You must attend the shows if you are in this business. You make new friends, exchange ideas and learn. Next we’ll talk about Columbia, Trinidad, Santo Domingo and much, more to come. I hope to see you all at PMQ’s New York Pizza Show in November.
Ciao, Chef Bruno