- Rico Lunardi of Slice on Broadway won the virtual pizza recipe/photo contest with his Thanksgiving Gobble Pie, featuring turkey and gravy, dressing and cranberry sauce.
- Second place went to David Conti of Red Planet Pizza, while Sean Dempsey of Dempsey’s Brewery Pub & Restaurant won third place.
Everyone knows the saying, “You eat with your eyes.” The U.S. Pizza Team (USPT) proved it’s true in November when it hosted the ’21 Virtual U.S. Pizza Cup (VUSPC), an event that was welcomed with enthusiasm from pizza makers across the nation.
Twenty-five competitors submitted pictures and recipes of their best pizzas to vie for the title of the ‘21 VUSPC Champion. With recipes ranging from Korean to vegan, Detroit-style to traditional Neapolitan, these pizzaioli put it all on the line—and on top of their pizzas—for a total of $3,000 in cash prizes and bragging rights for the best photo/recipe in the USA.
“With fewer in-person competitions this year, we needed to fill that void to keep the industry’s spirits up as well as give these pizza makers some practice for future live competitions,” said USPT Director Brian Hernandez.
Six industry professionals from both the culinary and food photography fields judged the entries on the technical aspects of the pictures as well as the recipe components and execution. The competition was fierce, but three shining stars emerged on the horizon.
First place was seized by Rico Lunardi of Slice on Broadway in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Relatively new to pizza competitions, either in person or virtually, Rico brought his A-game with spectacular results. Lunardi’s “Thanksgiving Gobble Pie” showcased mushroom-herbed dressing, cranberry sauce and oven-roasted turkey and gravy, all on a blanket of creamy Parmesan-and-roasted-garlic mashed potatoes.
“I’m definitely thankful that PMQ and the USPT put this event on.” Lunardi said. “I took what I learned from my third-place win last year and applied it to this pizza. Events like this are a great way for us pizza makers to show off our pizza making skills while gaining inspiration from our fellow competitors’ creations.”
Second place was claimed by David Conti of Red Planet Pizza in Ansonia, Connecticut. Conti’s “It’s Sooo Good” white clam pie showcased New Haven flavors on a traditional Neapolitan-style crust. It featured scamorza cheese, crispy bacon and whole baby clams, finished with scallions, lemon slices and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Its mouthwatering visual appeal is crafted to entice customers through social media, print and menus.
Third place went to Sean Dempsey of Dempsey’s Brewery Pub & Restaurant in Watertown, South Dakota. Dempsey pleased the judges with his “Love from Saskatoon” pizza, based on the Québécois culinary delight called poutine. It featured gravy made from prime rib drippings, mozzarella, country sausage, applewood-smoked bacon, cheese curds and green onions.But the star topping was the twice-fried French fries. The “Love from Saskatoon” has a little oomph, smoke and that fingers-licked-clean feel, according to Dempsey.
Other ’21 VUSPC competitors included Kira Zabrowski, Much Ado About Pizza, Livermore, California; Eric Von Hansen, Jordan Vaughan and Jay Falk, Caliente Pizza & Draft House, Pittsburgh; Brad Beam, Joe’s NY Pizza & Pasta/Bronx Pizza House, Palm Coast/Ormond Beach, Florida.; Brad and Jeremy Corbin, Sloopy’s Sports Café, Lakeside, Ohio; George and Patti Taylor, Taylors’ Neighborhood Pizza & Sandwich Shoppe, Endwell, New York; Kathy Conti, Red Planet Pizza; Craig Allenbaugh, Sauced Wood Fired Pizza, Fairview Park, Ohio; Trinity Randazzo, Detroit Style Pizza Company, St. Clair Shores, Michigan; Athanasios Drivas, Nittany Pizza, York, Pennsylvania; Chris Juricich, Ginny’s Neighborhood Pizza Joint, Murrysville, Pennsylvania; David Solum, Dempsey’s Brewery Pub & Restaurant; Michael Bacon, Danger Von Dempsey’s Brewhaus, Aberdeen, South Dakota; Audrey Jayne and Angela Williams, Slingin’ Pizza, Clifton, Texas; Pietro and Nicholas Marsala, Pine Island Pizza, Bokeelia, Florida; Tonino Topolino, Via Roma Pizzeria, Camp Springs, Maryland; and Manny Athanasakis, Manny & Olga’s Pizza, Silver Spring, Maryland.
The USPT competes all year-round in various culinary and acrobatic trials across the country and in international competitions. PMQ Pizza Magazine, the business trade publication for the pizza restaurant industry, created the U.S. Pizza Team in 2000. The USPT is sponsored by Galbani, Margherita Meats, Grain Craft, Real California Milk, Gordon Food Service, LaNova, MFG Tray, Burkett Restaurant Equipment and Supplies, Bag Solutions, Lillsun, and Univex.