Dino is a true pizza artist. Some people only make pizza; Dino lives and breathes pizza.
Dino's Italian heritage proved to be a pizza asset from an early age, and as fate would have it, the small pizzeria he worked for while in high school came up for sale just as he was rethinking the direction his life had taken. He decided it was time to fulfill his dream of owning his own pizza business.
Dino lost thirty pounds and 19 percent of the store's customers in the first two months, but after three and a half months, he was able to get the business back on track.
Dino's true pizza quest began with his desire to be unique and to create the extraordinary. He made pizza nightly for willing staff to test and refined his art as he researched.
He developed a mastery of ingredients . . . how flavors and food properties combine, how they react to heat, how they cook best.
Customers were sometimes offered these creations if they happened to be in the pizzeria at the right time. Customers asked, "Why does this pizza taste so good?", "Why aren't these pizzas on the menu?". Dino replied that these were gourmet pizzas.
Being continually ambitious, he entered a pizza contest at the Toronto Food and Beverage Show and won his category. When he returned in 1996, he entered every category. On the first day, to the consternation of the judges and other competitors, he won all three categories. This caused a dilemma for the judges on the second day, when they held the gourmet contest, which was his strongest. To ensure that he had competition for the overall contest, Dino could not be picked for this category. He was left to compete in the overall category using his traditional entry against his opponent's gourmet entry. He won.
Immediately from Toronto, he flew to Las Vegas as an entrant in the 1996 Pizza Festival Contest at Pizza Expo, and in the span of one week, won two international pizza contests.
PMQ is proud to have Dino as a resource for our readers. Do you have a special occasion pizza you'd like to see? Write to Dino c/o PMQ. This time Dino will show us how to make a delicious and visually appealing 4th of July Pizza.
How to Make a 4th of July Pizza
by Dino Ciccone
There is a segment of pizza that has been totally ignored. The specialty special occasion pizza. Why have cakes enjoyed this very special status with no competition?
Maybe because, we associate a birthday, wedding, etc., with a sweet offering. This was fine in the past, but pizza keeps evolving; why limit the possibilities?
Pizza has been around longer than cake; I think it's time big brother flexes his muscle! Pizza is limited only to your imagination; there is absolutely no reason not to have a specially designed pizza for any festive occasion form the crust shapes to the toppings . . . like the heart-shaped Valentine pizza I make at my store, Famous Eastown Pizza Bistro-Cafe.
With the upcoming July 4th Independence Day festivities, you might want to add some pizazz to this special day with a pizza we call Stars and Stripes. The toppings on this pizza are designed with American heritage in mind.
Roll out a big pizza shell, preferably a 16" – 18" size. Pick your favorite pizza sauce (try not to put to much sauce – you don't want it to bubble up through the cheese).
Stay 2" from the dough edge so that the sauce doesn't run over. The more cheese you use, the more difficult it will be to maintain definition.
Cook for approximately 6 minutes at 500 degrees. (I used a Baker's Pride 4600 for this). Pull pizza out and let sit.
Next, make the stars from fresh sweet red bell peppers. If you have the time and are handy with a knife, you could make from scratch, but I chose a 50 cent die cutter for speed, precision and uncut fingers. Place stars in upper left quadrant just like the actual flag.
The cheese used is Monterey Jack with a medium American cheddar mixed with mozzarella. I use a ratio of 3/4 mozzarella to 1/4 Jack/cheddar to maintain the whitest stripes possible.
Next add smoked Atlantic salmon with grilled American sweet yellow corn and shaped American Choice beef fillet, grilled to medium rare.
Then add baked brown beans in a molasses hickory sauce with grilled spicy sausage.
Last, but not least, add Granny Smith apples peeled, sliced, and mixed with California Raisins and reduced down with 2 oz. of Jack Daniels and brown sugar.
The only thing left to do is call your family and friends and enjoy a special pizza for a very special day. "God Bless America".