Canadian Pizza Magazine

Chef of the year – again!

By By Colleen Cross   

Features Profiles Trends chef of the year pizza trends

Two-time winner Giuseppe Cortinovis shares ideas on elevating pizza

This pizza features shiitake-mascarpone cream, roasted chanterelle mushrooms, maitake cooked in butter and sage on a pinsa made by his new venture with Fabrizio Busso. The Base Inc. Photo: Hakan Burcuoglu

Rihanna has made a career of teaming up with other musicians. Why shouldn’t pizza chefs, associations and suppliers work together in the same way?

This is how Giuseppe Cortinovis sees innovation. Talking with the quiet yet enthusiastic chef, you get the feeling that, like Rihanna, he’d like to work with everyone in his industry, learning from their creativity and experiences and freely sharing his own.

Cortinovis, named Chef of the Year for the second time at the Canadian Pizza Summit West in Vancouver in May, has collaborated more than most pizzaioli. A chef at David Hawksworth’s Nightingale in Vancouver, he started his own personal brand called “Love My Pizza” and works with organizations, chefs, manufacturers and suppliers.

The Competition
First, the competition, which took place as part of Bakery Showcase at the Vancouver Convention Centre in May. Cortinovis says, “I was very happy with the wheaty flavour of the dough. The Esmach oven [provided by EM Bakery Equipment] is similar to mine. Now with technology and the proper stone, the proper heating system, the balancing of the resistance, the electric oven can come out with a very good product as long as it is set at the correct setting. The stone is artisan: it becomes hot but doesn’t burn the product.”


Of his winning pizza, “Nostalgia,” he says: “I cooked the pizza for about two minutes. I was very happy when I put it in the oven and saw the expansion of the crust, because I never used that oven. It was gratifying. The judge from the Napoli culinary school asked why it was not baked like VPN. I told him it was cooked at a lower temperature, like the Canotto.” The Canotto, he explains, is characterized by its puffy crust “achieved through careful stretching and baking techniques. The dough is made with a high hydration level, of around 70 per cent.” Since the name was trademarked by Italian chef Carlo San Marco, Cortinovis calls his version of the style Contemporanea, or Contemporary.

SuperChefs, Italian Days
Cortinovis has been busy recently teaching Neapolitan pizza-making classes in Port Coquitlam once a month – he plans to add more styles – and participating in community events. The classes are taught at The Pizza Lab, at distributor Jan K Overweel using a small electric VPN-approved oven called the Opalino available from Sudforni. Cortinovis says the only other such oven in Canada is at Gusto Ferrari in Penticton.

He loves to meet new people and work with worthy organizations. For example, last summer he made pizzas at an event for SuperChefs, a non-profit that promotes healthy food choices for kids. “They operate culinary camps around the province supported by chefs and I am one of them,” Cortinovis says. “We speak about food, what is good, what is bad. They work a lot with kids especially in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.”

The SuperChefs event hosted four food trucks serving different foods. Cortinovis made pizza by the slice and talked to about 400 people who sampled pizza, made using doughs donated by MiMi Foods.

“Knowing a lot of kids like Hawaiian pizza, he adjusted the Nightingale version to a less spicy level. We take out the core and do a sugary sauce with jalapeno. We vacuum wrap the pineapple with this syrup to marinate for 24 hours, then bake it in a combi oven. We use habanero spice, guanciale and mozzarella and finish it with chives.””

Through SuperChefs he also did an event at UBC. UBC students get credit for learning from chefs like Cortinovis and turning those dishes into something appealing to and easily digestible for kids. 

This was similar to an Italian Days event he took part in. Hosted by Kerrisdale Lumber Home, a seller of outdoor pizza ovens and barbecues, which had support from JK Overweel and oven maker Fontana Forni. “We were the only booth making pizza portafoglio, which is smaller sized pizza wrapped in straw or oven paper and folded twice on its sides,” he says. “We sold 450 pizzas from 12 to 4 p.m. – over 100 pizzas an hour. Thinking back on it, it’s impressive!” 

Cortinovis also has been worked with the Italian Culinary Consortium, which promotes Italian culture and products through the work of chefs. 

Collaborations and connections
Cortinovis is committed to showcasing local ingredients. One way he is doing that is through his role in a documentary featuring mushrooms in British Columbia. He has been working with Oyster and King, a local organic mushroom producer, to develop dishes featuring the earthy ingredient.

They are working together to prepare three different dishes – one pizza, one pasta and one soup – with B.C. mushrooms as the main ingredient. The work will be also captured for a documentary. Ignite Pizzeria in Vancouver is part of the collaboration. Cortinovis has helped the team at Ignite with their food research and development and the dishes created will be available at its Yaletown location. 

Photo: Hakan Burcuoglu

Innovative pizza crusts
For the event Cortinovis made a vegan pinsa romana using a precooked base or crust he has been developing with vegan chef Fabrizio Busso, a vegan baker at Erin Ireland’s To Live For bakery in Vancouver. 

This new project he believes could have a big impact on the industry. Cortinovis and Busso has been creating partially precooked pizza bases, or crusts, that have long shelf life of three months at room temperature. The crusts will come in two forms: the round Latonda and the rectangular La Romana (pinsa romana) with a very high-hydration, a deep-dish pizza base with an open crumb structure that can be topped with ingredients as a regular pizza or can be opened and filled like a sandwich. After much testing, they expect to launch their business by the end of 2023 and are compiling a subscription list.

Elevating pizza styles
Cortinovis is always pushing the boundaries of style. Lately he’s been interested in what he calls the Contemporanea, his term for a version of the Canotto.

“Now chefs seem to be working together,” says Cortinovis, who won a trip to compete at Vegas Pizza Expo in March 2024. “The contemporary chefs have a different mentality, they want to succeed not as single chef but by collaborating to improve the pizza world. They put their knowledge together to come out with a product. If we work together and make the contemporanea pizza famous, we will all gain.”

The ‘Nostalgia’ pizza
Cortinovis on his winning pizza: “It is a unique and personal revisitation of a classic favourite of my childhood (the ‘Prosciutto e Rucola’). The dough is made using a combination of a biga and autolysis. The biga is made with a strong typo 0 flour by “5Stagioni,” while the autolysis is made of a 00 flour, a semi-strong flour, and 10 per cent local whole-grain flour, from Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz, B.C. The final hydration is 78 per cent and all the flours I used are organic. As for the toppings I have a layer of parmesan (30 months aged) cream and tomato confit (jam) before baking. Upon exiting the oven, the pizza is topped with stracciatella cheese, arugula pesto made with sunflower seeds, and drizzled with Cutrera EVO oil from Monti Iblei in Sicily. Finally, it’s finished with Maldon salt and served with 30-month prosciutto di Parma on the side.”

Giuseppe Cortinovis will be teaching a class on the “Classic Pizza” at the School of Italian Pizza in Toronto on Nov. 8.

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