What’s the secret to winning top honors at the upcoming World Pizza Championship (WPC), taking place April 5-7 in Parma, Italy? Hint: It’s not just about the quality of your pizza.
During the U.S. Pizza Team’s visit to the WPC in 2016, Gino Rago, co-owner of Panino’s Pizza in Chicago and culinary director of the U.S. Pizza Team, interviewed veteran pizza competition judge Umberto Fornito about how points are given for the competition’s most elusive scoring category: Preparation at the Oven.
In addition to winning Best Neapolitan Pizza at the WPC in 2005, Fornito was officially knighted by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano for his achievements in the pizza industry and travels the world lecturing on Neapolitan pizza.
As Fornito explained to Rago, the 100 potential points awarded by the oven judge are crucial to every competitor’s final score.
“Judges are looking at how you are dressed,” Rago notes. “They expect you to dress professionally, with a hat on your head, no shorts and no jewelry, such as watches, bracelets, rings, etc. They observe how you handle the dough, create your dough base and whether you apply the sauce, cheese and toppings with accuracy and neatness, using latex gloves when applicable.”
“Then they take note of how you put the pie into the oven with the pizza peel,” Rago continued. “They look to see if the toppings stay in place, if the pizza sticks to the peel, and how often the pizza maker looks into the oven or makes adjustments to the pizza. They determine how the pizza was cooked, how it was removed from the oven, and if the toppings and cheese remain intact. Lastly, they judge how clean the competitor leaves the area for the next competitor. Basically, they are looking to see that you are experienced and skilled enough to take part in their competition.”
For this year’s event, American competitors should know that wooden peels are not widely available in Parma, so they may want to bring their own from home. Also note that the Pizza in Teglia (Bakery Sheet Pizza) and Pizza in Pala (Pizza On a Peel) divisions allow the use of only electric ovens. Finally, remember that confidence, organization and a well-pressed chef coat will take you a long way! Good luck out there, or, as they say in Italy, in bocca al lupo!
How are scores at the World Pizza Championship calculated?
Pizzas are judged on taste, bake and preparation at the oven. Note that “presentation” is not listed in the final scoring criteria, but neat, clean clothing and confidence are important during the preparation of the pizza.
100 points Taste + 100 points Bake x 4 Judges = 800
+ 100 points Preparation at the Oven = total of 900 points
Body language says it all. World Pizza Championship competitors have learned to pay close attention to Judge Umberto Fornito’s facial expressions as he reacts to very good and very poor examples of preparation at the oven. Oven judges, along with the judges seated on the panel to taste pizzas, use the scale at right to guide their final decisions: