Posts Tagged ‘french pizza’

Gluten Quest at a Snail’s pace: Europe 2012 (Part One)


During our roundabout trek to the French Pizza Championships in Paris, Bruno di Fabio and I shared a lot of adventures and ate a lot of heart-healthy foods like butter-soaked escargot and goose liver pate (above), along with the million baguettes we so gloriously scarfed. Starting out at Lake Geneva, we were as far from Athens, Ohio and my little pizzeria Avalanche as could be. First, after freezing our arses off in the uber-expensive Geneva, we stopped at Ma Boulangerie in the French Alp village of Bonneville where it seemed all of France came to pick up breads, sandwiches, tarts and croissants.

The mountains aroung Bonneville were some of the most beautiful I’ve seen.


Ma Boulangerie really had their act together. They were fast, fully staffed and friendly with both of us. After just a few minutes they allowed us access to their oven. While I was getting the knack of loading and pulling baguettes out, Bruno dissapeared.


I walked to the back of the bakery and saw that he had made some new friends with the whole staff (go figure.) There he was mixing dough and forming baguettes, debating the proper method of pre-fermentation and the temperature of holding mixed dough. After a few hours of mixing, forming, and oven work we had to leave and head toward Alessio on the Ligurian Coast of Italy.


After we left Bonneville, we traversed the Alps again into Aosta, Italy where we stopped to forage and found some great bakeries and a treasure trove of…my favorite…Sausage!


It was here where we found some barky peasant breads and another lost love: the white truffle from Alba!


Aint’ nothing like the smell of stinky cheeses when you’re surrounded by the Italian Alps and some new friends!


After a quick stop in Torino, we headed straight to the Italian coastal town of Alessio where we tasted some great Ligurian breads and pastries.


The tourist season had recently ended so we had to search for places that were still open – but the sea was still beautiful!


We found the awesome Ligurian flatbreads and pizzas. I gave my starter some great ocean air next to the church steeple.


On down the beautiful coast we swept. We traveled into San Remo where we made some more great friends who also turned us onto some fantastic recipes. Laura taught us how to make Bagna Caulda in the Piedmontese tradition: milk and cream with trimmed garlic devoid of the green part (which is not digestible) then reduced with 2-3 anchovies. She also told Bruno secretly how to make “moro” which is the famous fava bean puree. (He’s gonna be mad for me posting this recipe but this is payback for telling Laura and her husband that I was extremely constipated and in need of Metamucil.)


We also noticed the traditional but small fougasse that was so popular to the west of here, past Monaco and in the south of France…we were near, but first we had to experience Monaco.


The Hotel Metropole was a fabulous place and took very good care of us! The cars here were outrageous and shined so much brighter after we learned on a nice rainy day…at a near vertical hill with a stop light…that our rental…had bald tires. Luckily for us, Bruno was driving and instead of easing it up the hill, he burned rubber for at least four minutes in a tires screech and cloud of rubber smoke that could be seen and heard in Bulgaria. I did find that the stinky smell eminating from under my seat was the pancetta ‘steccato’ I had picked up in Aosta. The pork belly is bound by wood and twine after brining to compress the pork fat and you cannot find it in the states.


Then came Monaco and the Hotel Metropole.


It is a beautiful hotel and home to the kitchen of Joel Robuchon. We were fortunate to be invited in by the Chef de Cuisine, Chef Coco where we met the whole staff and did a quick stage in the kitchen. Here is the bread chef and the pate fermentee they use for their breads (right).


During our working  tour of the kitchen, we learned how one of the best kitchens in the world operates. The Executive Pastry Chef, Satomi Kanai, showed us how they bathe the sweet breads with yuzu, then popped them back in the oven. Something I’ve never seen before.


Thanks to Chef Coco and his staff for having two pizza guys disrupt his day. The next day, we checked out and headed toward France  and the Mondiale de la Pizza in Paris. Not a bad trip so far- three countries in three days, but we had many more cool adventures along the way. Stay tuned for Part 2 next. (I’ve got tons of pics and some interesting video.)

The Pizza Olympics in Italy, 2011


My “Schiacciata alla Lombardo,” highlighting the cheeses and food of the Lombary region placed 4th in the U.S.A. I slathered wonderful Bellweather Farms Crescenza on the whole thing, then topped in thirds (1) Gorgonzola Dolce, Gorgonzola Piccante, sliced pear, Bresaola (air dried beef) and arugula. (2) Teleggio, wild mushrooms and truffle oil. (3) Vallentina Casera cheese with pancetta fresca (fresh pork side, marinated with salt, herbs and balsamic) and braised raddichio. My dough consisted of a wild yeast 24 hour levain with 50 percent local spelt flour and a 16 hour cold-retarded biga, then mixed with a 50/50 mix of 14 percent protein flour and caputo tipo “00” flour to a 70 percent hydration.

World Pizza Champions

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of being invited to the pizza olympics, held in Salsomaggiore Italy. My team, The World Pizza Champions ruled the day with fantastic culinary scores as well as the silver and bronze medals in pizza acrobatics.


This fabulous pizza made by Tony Gemignani won “Best Pizza in the U.S.A.”  The”cornicione” (Korn-e-Chon-A) or end crust has a terrific open crumb and airy cells obtained by pre-ferments, the perfect amount of hydration, patience and a little pizza love. Tony named this “Pizza Fortura.”  It consisted of  100% organic 12-grain  flour from Central Milling with a 93 percent hydration, Anchor Steam starter, triple malted, La Quercia prosciutto, blackberry honey, Sierra Nevada mozzarella and white cheddar with arugula. 

The fabulous Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Napolitana, Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza and Slice House, Pizza Rock in Sacramento and Pysano’s Pizza in Castro Valley  won “Best Pizza in the U.S.A.” for his score in the Pizza Classico category (damn- I came in second.) Tony also rocked the “Pizza Teglia” category, coming in 4th in the World followed by Bruno di Fabio who finished 8th in the World. Bruno has just opened “Re Napoli” to rave reviews in Greenwich CT.  and is opening a spectacular pizzeria called “900” in the East Village, Manhattan. (These guys are on FIRE!)

Here are the sights of the competition.


Eric Corbin, Pat Miller and Jay Shuurman exploded with great tricks in the Freestyle Acrobatics and Largest Dough Stretch.


    Some great pizzas were made in the Teglia, or pan pizza category where alot of Italians let them rest for over 10 minutes. 


Tony and Bruno saying, “If we gave you 1000 Euro, would you make sure the judges give that goon from Ohio a lower score?”


                     Lotsa French Chefs showed up this year. Here a chef creates a red Mullet pizza with spring vegetables.


Pat Miller, Owner of A Slice of New York in Columbus Ohio was spectacular in all events but really shined in largest dough stretch.


Contestants from all over the world competed in “The Fastest,” or pulling 5 small doughs out onto 12 inch screens in record time.


                               The Japanese team scored third place in the team acrobatics. Here they are with Miss Italy.


Three pizza legends; Tony Gemignani, Antonio Manzi (He won first place, freestyle acrobatics) and Bruno di Fabio.


                                                                               Did I mention the French were there?


                                                                                  Eric Corbin helping a nice old geezer cross the street.


                                                                                          Presentation to the judges is everything.


                                            The non-gluten category was held in a seperate area and featured some great pizzas also.


                                                                                                     The World Pizza Champions.


              Nancy Puglisi, (center) herself a master at the pizza business, acted as our interpreter, coach and friend.


This pizza place forth in the world in “Pizza in Teglia” or pan pizza and was made by (who else) Tony Gemignani. It is called the “Pancetta Porcini” using a 72 hour maturation with a poolish, porcini marsala cream sauce, wild mushrooms, smoked pancetta, smoked scarmoza, truffle oil, sea salt, roasted red peppers, fresh thyme, and mache.



Jay Shuurman, Eric Corbin and Alberto Pavolo shared the stage in victory for thier freestyle actobatic dough tossing.


                                                                 Here is Tony Gemignani picking up his trophy for Best Pizza in the U.S.A.     


This was an exciting and exhausting trip, these guys are some of the best and most dedicated pizza people on the planet and it was an honor to accompany them. Next year, even though they are my friends, I will crush them with a stellar pizza and win Best Pizza in the World because, like Bruno says “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometime.”

Semper Pie!

the goon

( I’ve had some problems attaching videos to posts but hope that soon I can show them to you.)