On a perfect day, under a clear blue sky stood the Fifth Third Pavilion, flanked on one side by a row of antiquated but beautifully preserved buildings and a stately courthouse on the other. Looming over it, in the heart of downtown Lexington, Kentucky, the modern Fifth Third Bank skyscraper juxtaposed the new with the old. Here, on historic Cheapside Avenue, pizza history had just been written at the 2012 Bluegrass Bakeoff.
Launched in 2010, the Bluegrass Bakeoff was created, according to Pizzaovens.com and event director Fash Asvadi, “to provide an opportunity for pizzerias all over Kentucky to join together and have some fun while showing off their pizza. It was such a success that we have continued each year since.”
Osman Cagil and Bayram Vatansever (pictured with Chef Santo Bruno) won the Bluegrass Bakeoff after being in business as co-owners of The Bridge Pizza for only two months.
One of three annual competitive events sanctioned by the U.S. Pizza Team, the 2012 Bluegrass Bakeoff took place on September 11. Twenty-three pizzerias competed for the title of Best Pizza in Central Kentucky and a spot on the U.S. Pizza Team to compete at the World Pizza Championship.
It came down to five teams of talented pizza makers: FatKats Pizzeria & Restaurant (fatkatspizzeria.com) of Georgetown; Sal’s Pizza, Wings & Pub (salspub.com) of Louisville; and Lexington’s Goodfellas Pizzeria (goodfellaspizzeria.com), Shakespeare & Co. (shakespeareandco.us) and The Bridge Pizza (thebridgepizza.com). But when contest judges Chef Santo Bruno, food writer Sharon Thompson and local pizzaiolo Joe Bologna reached their verdict, one team reigned supreme: The Bridge was announced as the overall winner, with a pie that featured spinach, bacon, mushrooms and ricotta cheese.
Osman Cagil, co-owner of The Bridge, was elated. “This is a great feeling because we have been in business for only two months, and we won the big prize,” he exclaimed at the time. “It’s hard to describe, but it’s great.”
Added his partner Bayram Vatansever: “We just came over here for fun, you know? We just love making pizzas. That’s all we do!”
As part of the winning prize, two representatives from The Bridge will join the U.S. Pizza Team to test their skills at the World Pizza Championship later this month in Parma, Italy. “The U.S. Pizza Team is a prestigious team,” Asvadi says. “We are so pleased we could be a part of this event.”
And as for the Bluegrass Bakeoff? “Overall, the vibe was a very positive one,” Asvadi says. “This year may have been slightly more competitive, as the public was included for the first time. It was such a success that we will hold 2013’s bakeoff at the same place. We hope that it will continue to grow each year. Maybe one day we’ll even go beyond the Bluegrass State to include neighboring states.”