It was the best of times; it was the crust of times.
Seventeen pizza makers from around the nation spent their Fourth of July at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center in Oxford, competing in the Slice of Americana pizza-making competition, hosted by Oxford-based national publication PMQ Pizza Magazine and the United States Pizza Team. Pie masters from Charlotte, Ohio, and other distant locales joined local talent from Tre Amici and Camp Lake Stephens, all vying to impress palates with their spin on the pizza. The pizzas not only were tasted by a panel of judges and graded on several criteria, but the event was open to the public. A steady crowd of people filled the Powerhouse throughout the several hours of the event.
The winner, Gassville, Arkansas’s Rick Mines, made a meatball and red pepper pie. The pizza includes a signature dough and sauce to start. Mines then adds a blend of 50/50 mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Topped with thinly sliced meatballs, he then added a lattice work of sweet red peppers. Then in each of the lattice squares, a cheese ball of parmesan, asiago, romano, colby, and ricotta is placed. Mines earned a spot on the U.S. Pizza Team and a free trip to Italy to compete in the World Pizza Championships in 2015.
Coming in second was Greg Riviotta of Franco’s Pizza in Hartsgrove, Ohio, with his Black Diamond Jubilee pizza and third was Chris Mallon of 5 Points Pizza in Nashville with a chorizo pizza. The audience choice winner was Karen Irby of Camp Lake Stephens in Oxford.
“It was impressive to see these passionate pizza-makers present their pies and explain the steps used to make them, the origin of the crusts, cheeses, and toppings, and the nuances that make them special,” said HottyToddy.com’s Tad Wilkes, one of the judges.
Handcrafted pizza, children’s activities, and live music brought a festive atmosphere to the event, which was made possible by Adamec Electric, L-O-U Fourth of July Committee, Powerhouse Community Arts Center, Oxford Police Department, the Trophy Shop, Bay State Milling, Fontanini Meats, Bacio Cheese, Neil Jones, Northern Pizza Equipment, Grande Cheese, Liguria, Teti Bakery Inc., Beyond Meat, and Inflatables by Extreme Jumpers.
The U.S. Pizza Team consists of expert pizza makers and dough-spinning acrobatic performers from pizza restaurants across the United States. The squad won the Team Acrobatics World Championship in Italy in 2011. PMQ Pizza Magazine, the business trade publication for the pizza restaurant industry, created the U.S. Pizza Team in 2000. The US Pizza Team is sponsored by California Milk Advisory Board, Gordon Food Services, LaNova, Paradise Tomato Kitchens, Bag Solutions, Fontanini Meats, Lillsun, Marsal and Sons, Pendelton Flour, Univex, PizzaInsurance, and Presto Foods.