LaMarca makes top marks in Slice of Americana

Mike LaMarca played the flavor card on Independence Day with his Orange Crush pizza to win the second annual Slice of Americana competition. The event took place in Oxford, Mississippi, home ofthe event's sponsor PMQ Pizza Magazine. Eleven pizzaioli, from sitesas far away from Oxford as Fort Lupton,Colorado, and Katy, Texas, competed in a grueling culinary test of pizza taste, presentation and crust perfection.

LaMarca owner of six pizzerias called Master Pizza, based in the Cleveland, Ohio, area, said his creation, the Orange Crush "Takes you through many levels and flavors of one of the most versatile fruits." The pizza is prepared with a base of orange zest fermented in canola oil mixed with herbs and spices. That's topped with a layer of fresh-cut and grated parmesan, asiago, mozzarella and provolone cheeses and thick-cut honey-cured bacon and dried cranberries. Finally, LaMarca's citrus vision crushed the field with its toppings of fresh arugula, fresh-cut orange slices, tomatoes, fried orange peel and crushed candied pecans (pictured).

Closely following LaMarca was second-place finisher and fellow U.S. Pizza Team member Jane Mines, co-owner with husband, Rick, of Nima's Pizza & More in Gassville, Arkansas. Mines' Roasted Garlic Chicken Kiev pie begins with a pre-preparation of Chicken Kiev, which the 2015 first place regional winner inthe Las Vegas Pizza Competitionsays "Is not a dish for the weak of heart." This pizza is finished with spinach, blended mozzarellaand Provel cheeses and lemon slices.Dave Sommers, owner of Mad Mushroom Pizza in in West Lafayette, Indiana,honored America's birthday and finished thirdwith his Pulled Pork Picnic Pizza. Homemade barbecue sauce, slow-cooked pulled pork, mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheeses, topped off with fresh coleslaw came together for the five experiencedjudges who evaluated each entry.

But Sliceof Americana was just as much a celebration of pizza and American icons as it was a competition. An Elvis impersonator performed for attendees and sampled the pizza along with a steady crowd of 200-300 pizza lovers who purchased tickets. Kids took part in dough-stretching and spinning classes outside of Oxford's Powerhouse venue,while a fascinated gallery watched the pizza-makers prepare and bake their creations before presenting 11 different competition pizzas to the judges for tasting. The pizza chefs busily sharedovens donated by event sponsors on the Powerhouse stage while the play-by-play was excitedlynarrated by Oxford Arts Director Wayne Andrews.

In addition to LaMarca, Mines and Sommers, event participants were: Demarco Jenkins, owner of D'MarcosPizzeria in Katy, Texas; Melissa Rickman, co-owner of Wholly Stromboliin Fort Lupton, Colorado, outside of Denver; Jason Samosky, owner of Samosky'sHomestyle Pizza in Valley City, Ohio; Chris Mallon, kitchen manager at Five Points Pizza in Nashville; Mike Russo, owner of Romeo's Pizza in Medina, Ohio; Bradley Johnson, store manager with Mellow Mushroom in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Will Shaw, manager with PizzaBOGOin North Olmstead, Ohio; and Karen Irbya veteran pizza-makerwith Camp Lake Stephens in Oxford, Mississippi.