Rago Wins Chattanooga Pizza Event in Bake-off

The second annual Southeast Pizza Competition at Mellow Mushroom in Chattanooga, Tennessee, ended with an unprecedented tie-breaking “bake-off” between Traditional Category winner Gino Rago and Gourmet champion Jason Samosky. Rago took top honors with his “La Rochetta” pie.     

The culinary and pizza-related competitions—Fastest Box Folding, Largest Dough Stretch, and Fastest Pie-Making—ended Dec. 8 as 17 pizzaioli from around the nation vied for the grand prize: a free trip to Parma, Italy, to compete with the Groupon U.S. Pizza Team at the 2016 World Pizza Championship. Rago won the trip with his veggie-dominated pizza featuring broccolini, mushrooms, asparagus, corn, hickory-smoked bacon, kale chips and a blend of mozzarella and gouda with Aurora pizza sauce. "This feels great,” said the owner and founder of Chicago’s Panino’s Pizzeria. “This is a wonderful experience being with the U.S. Pizza Team. It enhances my experience ten-fold."

The Bake-off was triggered after Rago won in Traditional with his Chi-Town Deep Dish Pizza Pie. The four judges had a tough time selecting a winner in Gourmet, but eventually tabbed Samosky, owner of Samosky’s Homestyle Pizzeria in Valley City, Ohio. He impressed the judges with a pie called "La Pizza Inverno." Samosky’s creation was loaded with seasonal winter ingredients such as butternut squash and apples. "It was an awesome competition,” Samosky said. “Even better pizzas."

In the Bake-off round, Rago and Samosky were given optional secret ingredients provided by sponsors, including a variety of cheeses and fresh produce, and one mandatory ingredient—the  chef’s choice of any of five varieties of bacon.

Complete results:

Fastest Box Folding

Winner—Kathryn Scott—Community Pie, Chattanooga, Tennessee

2nd Place—Stan Miller—World Famous PieZon’s, Fulton, Mississippi

3rd Place—Dave Sommers—Mad Mushroom, West Lafayette, Indiana

CulinaryTraditional

Winner – Gino Rago

2nd Place—Dave Sommers

3rd Place—Frank Baird—Franco’s Pizza, Chardon, Ohio

CulinaryGourmet Division

Winner—Jason Samosky

2nd Place (tie)—Greg Spaulding—Middle Fork Kitchen Bar—Lexington, Kentucky, and Bradley Corbin—Sloopy’s Sports Café—Lakeside, Ohio

3rd Place—Chris Mallon—Nashville

Fastest Pie Making

Winner—Dave Sommers

2nd Place–Stan Miller 

3rd Place—Mike Reyes—Five Points Pizza—Nashville, Tennessee

Largest Dough Stretch

Winner—Stan Miller

2nd Place—Brian Scott–Community Pie—Chattanooga

3rd Place—Abby Robbins—Mellow MushroomChattanooga